When people hear “Martin Luther King Day”, they tend to think of it as a day off work, a day off school, or a day in which businesses may be closed. However, Martin Luther King Day is much more than that. Held on the third Monday of January, people across America are encouraged to celebrate the life attainments of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15 of 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout his life he was an American civil rights leader who strived for racial equality and organized peaceful protests to put an end to segregation. Throughout his career, King’s Christian beliefs and nonviolent ideals allowed him to become the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Through the SCLC, he organized the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Some of the most famous pieces taken from this speech include:

  1. “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”
  2. “I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
  3. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed- we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
  4. “I will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and later expanded his efforts to include a fight against poverty and the Vietnam War. In 1968, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, who was sentenced to 99 years in prison for his murder.

Martin Luther King Day, beginning in some cities in 1971, was officially formed by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Martin Luther King Jr. can still be honored at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington D.C. King can be remembered as a brave, intelligent individual that fought for equality for people of all colors and incomes. Not only is Martin Luther King Day a day to celebrate the life of King, it is also one to celebrate the accomplishments of America and how far the country has come. Along with this, MLK day is a day to remember the vigorous fights for civil rights, and shine a bit of light on the reality of the United States.

So now, after hearing “Martin Luther King Day”, I hope that you are able to reflect deeper on the fight to ending racism and how it is still not over. I hope you can think about how we as a country can continue his legacy and carry on his ideals both in how far we have come, and also in how far we have yet to go.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.