Yesterday we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr day and answered his question, “what are you doing for others”, by coming together on the King Holiday to serve with our neighbors and communities. How did you celebrate? I unfortunately was home sick in bed, but many people took part in not only celebrating and remembering Martin Luther King Jr and his message of non-violence but also a day of service.
There was a school in my town that turned their gymnasium into assembly lines for creating chew toys for local animal shelters, making hats and headbands for kids who lost their hair due to medical treatments, writing cards for senior citizens and even assembling treat bags for chemotherapy patients. How amazing, and this was just one school’s actions!
Believe it or not, it took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It was first introduced into legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968 by Congressman John Conyers. Congress passed the holiday legislation not until 1983, which was then signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Several states resisted celebrating the holiday. In 1989, 44 states adopted MLK day as a holiday. Finally, in 2000, South Carolina becomes the last state to make MLK Day a paid holiday for all state employees.
What an extraordinary (but short) life Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived! Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, he never backed down in his stand against racism. He dedicated his life to achieving equality and justice for all Americans of all colors. King believed that peaceful refusal to obey unjust law was the best way to bring about social change. At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he mesmerized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he was the youngest to win the Nobel Peace Prize. And sadly at 39, he was assassinated. But his legacy will live on.
On this day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing, you are part of the great dream this extraordinary man had for America. No other day of the year is like this or has this message. This is not just a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday! And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream. So, what is it that you will do? What will you teach your children? If you want to see the change in the world, you must start to be the change. He left us his legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today thru us that we must continue in our everyday lives. We have the power to change the world we live in, one dream at a time. Martin Luther King Jr had a dream…..what is yours?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963
Mary Beth Iannarella
Girl Talk Marlton/The Wishwall Foundation