Martin Luther King Jr. Day has always given me a good break from school. In previous years, I unfailingly knew exactly what I would be doing on my day off. I’d be sleeping in, doing some work, and, if my schedule allowed it, even having time to relax. Unfortunately, this apathetic attitude infects many, including myself, concerning the day off. While I have nothing but admiration and respect for Martin Luther King Jr., our day to honor him has never incited an activist passion within me. I always felt like it was pretty much a meaningless extension of the weekend. As a white male who attends Horace Mann, I’m pretty sheltered from the injustices fought by MLK.
I am only actually reflecting on the massive movement brought about by MLK because I’m writing this op-ed. Designed to bring recognition to the famous activist, MLK Day is a chance to remember a man whose accomplishments continue to inspire Americans today. Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized the Great March on Washington, and, as a whole, greatly influenced the Civil Rights movement. Writing this piece has encouraged me to learn further about the day itself.
It only took 6 million signatures, a song by Stevie Wonder titled “Happy Birthday” about Dr. King, and repeated attempts by John Conyers, one of few African American congressmen at the time, to introduce the day bill to Congress in 1986.
However, unfortunately, despite the work of many, the holiday is still often paired with a celebration of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, born January 19.
This MLK day, I hope to break the habits of my previous “day off.” I plan to devote time to learn more about current movements as well as to better appreciate the actions and undertakings of MLK. I believe each of us should actively seek out and engage in an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the true significance of the day. We’ve made great progress as a society since Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, but we must continue to be vigilant. Both as individuals and as a greater community, it behooves us to strive towards the ideals at the very core of Dr. King’s message.
We mustn’t let society regress because of the increasingly bigoted behavior of our country today. It often seems that we’re taking more steps backward than we are progressing forward. And for this reason, I hope to use Dr. King to motivate myself and others to more passionately seek out ways to implement change in society. This MLK Day, I will push myself to find something that promotes peace, equality, and appreciation of others.
This year, and every year, the school makes a deliberate effort to honor MLK and ensure that students are respectful and properly educated. This year, the theme of justice directly connects to MLK. However, I believe that students themselves should more actively honor the day. Change begins with a conscious effort from the individuals of a community.
This MLK day, use your “time off” to find an issue that makes you truly passionate and try to implement real change, or at least think about how to. The best way to recognize the actions of MLK is to continue building towards his dream of equality.
In the words of MLK, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”