“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
MONDAY, JANUARY 21—The holiday’s official name is “Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.,” but many people also refer to this annual milestone as: National Day of Service.
The main federal website to get involved—and connect with others—is the National Service website. That site offers a lot of information about regional events and opportunities. On the site’s front page, you will find a link to add information about your own local events. Plus, there’s a helpful link to free lesson plans for kids, courtesy of Scholastic. Inside, there’s an index to a host of webinars and other resources for adults who want to encourage community service. Want tips on organizing a book drive, a fitness event—or a community tree planting program? Check out this page.
Many adults alive today recall the long and bumpy journey to establishing this milestone of the civil rights leader. And the story isn’t over …
King was born January 15, 1929. He became a Baptist pastor and helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, serving as its first president. In 1963, King helped to organize the March on Washington and, there, delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.
When a bill was introduced for a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King, some representatives argued that an additional paid holiday would be too expensive and that Dr. King, having never held public office, was ineligible. Supporters of the bill began rallying the public, and when Stevie Wonder released “Happy Birthday” in 1980 to raise awareness of the campaign, 6 million signatures were collected. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that established a federal holiday on November 2, 1983. The holiday was first observed in 1986.
However, it took until 2000 for all 50 states to actively participate. To this day, a handful of states still officially insist on using alternative names and perspectives on the holiday.
KING’S LIFE AND LEGACY
ReadTheSpirit.com online magazine has lots of resources for reflecting on Dr. King’s life and legacy …
- PROFILE—Peacemaker and author Daniel Buttry writes this overview of Dr. King’s life.
- FEED THE SPIRIT—Journalist, author and activist Desiree Cooper writes this FeedTheSpirit column about one of Dr. King’s favorite foods—sweet potato pie—and includes a delicious recipe.
- THE MOVIE—Faith and film writer Edward McNulty wrote this review of the movie, Selma.