The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington is a national monument that attracts visitors from around the world. It captures the words and dreams of Dr. King, a man who challenged everyone to share in his dream that all people, regardless of race, creed or gender are created equal. For Deryl McKissack and Lisa Anders, the memorial holds added value because of their personal involvement.
Deryl’s architectural firm, McKissack & McKissack, designed and built the memorial which sits along the beautiful tidal basin, overlooking the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. “This is just one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on, especially for the company because of what it means to the country and the world and what Dr. King stood for.” Lisa Anders, a Civil Engineer for the firm, put her 20 years of experience to good work as the site manager of the project. “We started construction in 2009 and finished in 2011. So it was 609 days of construction schedule but for me being out here every day, I was just doing what I know, watching the concrete, the steel, the landscape, all the stone go in. This project, being a memorial for Dr. King, has a lot of meaning for me personally and what my parents taught me and what I could strive to be.”
In October when President Obama along with celebrities and thousands attended the official dedication of the memorial, McKissack and Anders remember being overwhelmed with inspiration and gratification to see so many people show their appreciation for not only the memorial, but the legacy of Dr. King. McKissack described her reaction to the scene. “What I saw was an inspiration. Yes there were a lot of people crying, but there was a lot of joy. There was a lot of exchange of knowledge from one generation to the next, so it just felt great that we were just a part of it.”
“It helps us to focus on what was Dr. King all about,” Anders explained. “It wasn’t just civil rights; it was human rights and kind of being a better person.”
McKissack and Anders are both graduates of Howard University. They are trailblazers, breaking down the barriers of a male dominated industry and through education, hard work and visionary leadership, they are becoming known as the builders of America’s future, not only in buildings, but in the lives of young people they inspire.
“I really enjoy sharing that hope to younger children that are interested and I actually like to try to encourage them, ‘Hey, you know, its great to build these things and don’t be afraid of math and science, but it can be very rewarding.’”
“We want to show our children that regardless of who you are or what your agenda is or your race, you can still do it. And you can do it with excellence.”