Dr. Martin Luther King Jr changed our nation, spoke words others did not dare to speak, and called a nation to pause and consider its actions. Today, in honor of him, we reflect.
In the face of great adversity Martin Luther King Jr preached for equality and peace. He stood behind what was right, not what was simple, or what was accepted. He did not advocate for violence, or hatred, but for the rights which all Americans are granted through the constitution which governs us all.
Dr. King was born on January 15th 1929 in Atlanta. He graduated high school at age 15, and received his Ph.D. at age 26 from Boston University. He led the black boycott (1955-56) of segregated city bus lines and in 1956 gained a major victory and prestige as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to operate on a desegregated basis. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance led to his arrest on numerous occasions in the 1950s and 60s. His campaigns had mixed success, but the protest he led in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 brought him worldwide attention. He spearheaded the Aug., 1963, March on Washington, which brought together more than 200,000 people. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On Apr. 4, 1968, he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (since 1991 a civil-rights museum).
The holiday honoring Dr. King’s birth and the achievements during his life was created in 1983, making it one of the most recent U.S. holidays. What many do not know, however, is that it is two holidays in one. There’s the overall King Day, set in ’83 when President Reagan signed a bill putting it in federal law. And there’s the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, established when President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994. King Service Day is meant to be a day of personal action in Dr. King’s memory on or near his holiday – as its boosters say, a day on, not a day off. It’s promoted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that also runs AmeriCorps and similar initiatives.
Most recently, on August 28th 2011, a memorial was erected and dedicated on the Mall in Washington DC in honor of Dr. King and his long-standing achievements and contributions to our country.
So, if you are at work, or enjoying a day off today, take time to reflect upon the meaning of this holiday. What, and who, it stands for. Take the time to listen to Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial now nearly five decades ago. Reflect upon your fellow man and the injustices which still exist in this world and question how you can not simply do what is easy, but what is right. Consider how you can contribute to your community and make a difference that will let Dr. King’s famous words, “I have a Dream” continue to ring on.