Day of Service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Candice Compton
  • Equal Opportunity Office
Some may recognize Jan.16, 2012 as just another federal holiday, but for others it is a day to recognize one of America's greatest heroes, Martin Luther King Jr.

Establishing this holiday took persistence. Four days after King's assassination, Congressman John Conyers Jr. introduced legislation seeking to make King's birthday a federal holiday.The bill languished in Congress for eight years, unable to gain enough support to pass. This changed when President Jimmy Carter vowed to support a holiday dedicated to King. King's wife, Coretta Scott King said, "This is not a black holiday; it is a people's holiday." Coretta continued fighting, testifying before Congress, mobilizing governors, mayors and city council members across the nation in support of the legislation recognizing a holiday honoring King.

After 15 years of continuous struggle, Congress passed the legislation. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill on November 1983, establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Several states were openly contemptuous towards federal law. At the time only 27 states and Washington, D.C., observed the holiday. Arizona did not recognize the holiday until 1992. South Carolina became the last state to sign a bill recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday in 2000.

Although Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, his character and dream did not die. He became an icon and a legend for his selfless accomplishments during the Civil Rights Era and beyond.

King was the voice of change for people who felt voiceless. He fought for minorities, underpaid workers and anyone who felt adverse civil treatment. King was a leader who did not care about politics. Instead, he cared about invoking change to ensure all people were treated equal.

Over the years, our nation has taken great strides to promote fair treatment and equal opportunity. We have done well in this area and should continue our efforts. King once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Jan. 16, 2012 is a great occasion for everyone to honor King's legacy by giving back, promoting freedom, fairness and equality.

Each year the holiday holds the same theme: "A Day On, Not a Day Off." As America's servicemembers, let us all take this day to seek ways to improve our community. Motivate those around us to get involved, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems within your control and ensure King did not die in vain. By taking these selfless actions we help keep his dream alive. Start the year off right by making an impact in our community.