Three reasons why Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is relevant to all Americans

LatinaLista — Depending on which state you live in, today is either the 24th anniversary of observing Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) day or the 10-year anniversary.

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The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed in 1986. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000. 

President Ronald Reagan, flanked by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King on the left, signs into law a federal holiday marking the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

While there could be much debate as to why it took some states longer than others to observe MLK day, the irrefutable fact today is that this is no longer a holiday just for the black community or the civil rights advocates; it is a holiday for every U.S. resident.

Why?

Because it is a holiday commemorating the spirit and actions of a man who literally changed the course of this country.

Having the advantage of archival television (watch the video at the Latina Lista Network on www.latinalista.net), we can see how MLK carried himself, hear how his voice sounded and see firsthand the impact he had on masses of people.

We celebrate both the man and his accomplishments: his oratorical skills, his negotiating skills and his skill to connect with people.

In fact, when we look at the two other federal holidays celebrated for a single individual — Washington and Columbus – celebrating MLK is more meaningful for US citizens.

First, because of that archival footage, we can see firsthand what kind of statesman he was versus the third-party reports about Washington and Columbus.

Secondly, Washington and Columbus’ observances are based more on romanticized notions of how we want to believe they lived their lives, rather than the truth. With MLK, there’s no running from the truth. The good with the bad is documented and he still rises above the others.

Thirdly, like Washington and Columbus, Martin Luther King, Jr. can be described as a “Founding Father” — he founded a new way for others to see people of color and, for people of color, how to think about themselves.

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3 Comments

  1. Tara said:

    MLK never used the term “people of color” that is a fairly recent construct in social and political history. Martin Luther King, Rev. Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and all the men and women who participated in the Civil Rights Movement were specifically protesting for equality for African-Americans. Of course, MLK was a visionary and yearned for peace everywhere, but mostly in the deep South. It is only recently, and rather shamelessly, that other groups have tried to catch a free ride on the Freedom Train.

  2. Marisa Treviño said:

    Tara, while blacks took center stage in those Civil Rights marches, Latinos also marched and fought for the same benefits. Just because they didn’t garner the press coverage back then – because they more invisible than blacks – doesn’t diminish that fact.

  3. cookie said:

    That’s all well and good Marisa but what has the Civil Rights Era and who was marching at that time have to do with illegal immigration today? No citizens are being denied their rights today.

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