Making Martin Luther King Day Meaningful

This Monday we celebrate the legacy of one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For many, it will be a time to enjoy a three-day weekend out of town with friends or family. Or perhaps, it means an extra day to catch up on work around the house and in the yard.

There is an uplifting aspect to the day when we think about the difference one man made to awaken the conscious of a nation founded on principles of equality and human rights. Let us never doubt the need for and power of passionate, persistent, idealistic, fearless leadership.

We can also marvel at the distance we’ve come. It would have truly been unimaginable to Dr. King that in just five decades since the violence of the civil rights movement and the prevalence of blatant and bold defense of lawfully sanctioned segregation and lawlessness, that today, we have an African American President. That’s amazing and whether you like former President Obama or not, you should feel some pride that we have come this far.

On the other hand, I worry that the core deep ugliness and inhumanity of words like hate, prejudice, segregation and racism has been softened by the frequency of their use and the tendency to objectify history. We must not let this happen.

We must remind ourselves and teach our children that just a short time ago, the kind of rhetoric we attribute to the KKK, Nazis and Skinheads were uttered by prominent politicians and even some courts well into the 1960s. It is not enough that we know the history of lynchings, attack dogs and fire hoses that spawned the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., we must understand it. And it’s not enough to understand what it was really like – we must feel it. Look at the images of what was really going on so you can experience the shame of our history and the pride that, while there are still pernicious remnants of racism that must be removed, at least we’ve made things a lot better.

Please make the time, especially if you have children to consider and act on — the message of social and racial justice that Martin Luther King advanced. Talk to your kids about fairness, the Golden Rule, about judging others “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” as King famously said.


Did you know there’s an organization and event to help you do that?


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – #MLKDay

“Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. 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.”




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