THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF MLK DAY
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his life working tirelessly toward a dream of equality and opportunity for all. He challenged us to help build a more perfect union and live up to the purpose and potential of America. Most importantly, he recognized the power of the individual to make a difference.
"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 17, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day's designation as a federal holiday, a time for neighborhoods and communities to come together to honor, celebrate, and further the dream of a supremely inspirational human being.
REMEMBERING DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up attending segregated schools in Georgia. Later he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Those experiences would help shape his views on segregation. Eventually he came to national attention as a Baptist pastor and a leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
He became the face of the civil rights movement in 1955 when he led a 382-day bus boycott to end bus segregation. The following year, a Supreme Court decision declared bus segregation unconstitutional. His work in the years that followed brought him not only around the United States, but around the world in an effort to bring attention to injustices, mount protests, and take nonviolent action. Despite personal intimidation, threats, and numerous arrests, Dr. King remained committed to nonviolent means of promoting change.
"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." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At 35 years old, Dr. King was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, donating the prize money to the civil rights movement. His assassination in 1968 left the United States and the world in a state of shock and unrest, but his good works are indelibly etched in the national consciousness. We came a long way during his lifetime, and even further in the four decades since his death. We still have a lot of room for improvement.
Equality and inclusiveness. It is not too much to expect. Today perhaps it is a concept taken too easily for granted.
THE DREAM LIVES ON
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?" - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
MLK Day is designated to honor the achievements of Martin Luther King and to encourage people to actively pursue furthering his vision of equality, social justice, and opportunity for all. Americans are encouraged to make it a national day of service - "a day on, not a day off."
The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.
Led by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the King Center, the MLK Day of Service will include thousands of projects spread across all 50 states, including delivering meals, refurbishing schools and community centers, collecting food and clothing, signing up mentors, reading to children, promoting nonviolence, and more, with many projects starting on the MLK Day of Service and lasting throughout the year. Visit www.MLKDay.gov to find a project near you.
Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the face of America for the better. But he didn't do it alone; he did it by harnessing the power of individuals. We are a nation made up of a patchwork of rich cultures and ethnicities. As much as we have gained, there is still an unsettling undercurrent of bigotry. We must never become complacent, for the work must continue. The dream lives on.
Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer covering a wide range of issues, most notably multiple sclerosis patient advocacy, health care policy, and healthy living.