Happy Martin Luther King Day!
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law legislation creating the Martin Luther King Day holiday to be celebrated on the 3rd Monday of January (close to King’s January 15th birthday). It was observed for the first time in 1986.
There was protracted opposition by some lawmakers to observing the King holiday, mostly centered on King’s political alliances and/or political views (such as his opposition to the Vietnam War). Others expressed concern over the cost of adding another federal holiday or the precedent of having a holiday named for an American citizen who was never elected to public office.
Martin Luther King Day, however, should not be viewed as a commemoration of just a person, no matter how historically impactful. It is a celebration of the core idea that King fought so bravely to be represented and respected in our society: each person is entitled to equality under law and that we should judge each person’s character, talents, and values without regard for their skin color or ethnic background. This core principle is what makes America great – each person is a valued individual who should control his or her destiny through their own actions and ideas.
Sadly, some have distorted that core principle in favor of policies that favor government racial preferences in contracting, hiring, education, etc.
Today I will pause to remember the impact that learning about MLK had on me when I l was a young girl in middle school. And I will reflect on how his passion for equal treatment touched me and a nation.
- Jennifer Gratz