"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." This is a memorable and notable quote by the late Martin Luther King Jr.
Today and Monday are important days for us to pause and recognize the importance of this great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today, January 15th, marks the birthday of Dr. King. Monday is the federal holiday to recognize Dr. King, the work that he started, and the work that continues today.
On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday as of January 20, 1986. As a result of this bill, Americans commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on the third Monday in January. For us, that is next week Monday. Since we will not have announcements on Monday, we are bringing attention to the importance of that day today Few Americans are aware of the history of Martin Luther King Day and the long battle to convince Congress to establish this holiday in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, first introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday just four days after King was assassinated in 1968. After the bill became stalled, petitions endorsing the holiday containing six million names were submitted to Congress. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington, at which time Congress passed the holiday legislation.
Celebrated on the third Monday of January, the King Holiday is a time when the nation pauses to remember Dr. King’s life and work, but also to honor his legacy by making the holiday a day of community service, “a day on, not a day off.” The King Holiday should highlight remembrance and celebration and should encourage people everywhere to reflect on the principles of nonviolent social change and racial equality as espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. It should be a day of community and humanitarian service, and interracial cooperation.
In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.
The MLK Day of Service is a way to transform Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teachings into community action that help solve social problems. That service may meet a tangible need, or it may meet a need of the spirit. On MLK Day, Americans of every age and background celebrate Dr. King through service projects that strengthen communities, empower individuals, bridge barriers, and create solutions.
Take today and Monday to think about how you can add to your community through service. Whether you participate in this service on Monday, or in the future, think about how you can give back and help our nation move closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community” both here in the Kettle Moraine area and across the nation.