Every year, Martin Luther King Day is commemorated on the third Monday of January. This date was chosen not only because it closely aligns with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on January 15, but also to honor the principles of the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968. This legislation which aims to provide workers with a long weekend several times throughout the year.
Martin Luther King Day was first proposed on April 4, 1968, but the legislation was not approved until President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on November 2, 1983. It then took another 17 years to get all 50 states to observe the holiday, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Since 2000, all 50 states have officially recognized Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday. What makes this day stand out is its designation as a national day of service, inspiring Americans to engage in volunteer work and contribute positively to their communities. This celebration is a tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and a call to action for everyone to play a role in enhancing the fabric of our society.
How Dr. King’s Example of Personal Excellence Still Inspires Us Today
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence continues to unfold in numerous areas of modern life. Here are some uplifting examples from 2023 that show how his dream continues to take shape in today’s world, according to Word in Black:
- Leadership at the helm of four major cities: In an unprecedented stride towards inclusive governance, four of America’s largest metropolises – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston – are now guided by the vision and leadership of Black mayors. Their leadership marks a historic moment in the political landscape, showcasing the progress toward Dr. King’s vision of equality and leadership.
- Cinematic excellence and acknowledgment: The remarkable Ruth Carter has made history by clinching her second Oscar for costume design in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and has become the first Black woman to achieve this feat twice. Her award is a testament to the boundless creativity and excellence Dr. King encouraged in every field of endeavor.
- Academic brilliance redefining history: Two brilliant teenagers from the New Orleans area have achieved what was once considered impossible. Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson presented a groundbreaking mathematical discovery concerning the Pythagorean theorem at the American Mathematical Society’s Annual Southeastern Conference, challenging millennia of established thought and proving that the pursuit of knowledge knows no bounds.
- Pioneers in space exploration: NASA’s announcement of its lunar crew, the first in five decades to embark on a moon mission, includes Victor Glover – a Black naval aviator. Glover, not new to the cosmos, will make his mark again after a tenure on the International Space Station, symbolizing the heights to which Dr. King’s legacy propels us.
- Trailblazing military leadership: Maj. Gen. Janeen Birckhead has shattered ceilings to become the singular Black woman leading a National Guard, taking the reins as Maryland’s top military official. Appointed by the nation’s only Black governor, Wes Moore, Maj. Gen. Birckhead’s appointment is a profound nod to the service and leadership that Dr. King idealized.
Supporting Dr. King’s Ideals by Encouraging Diversity at the University
The University is committed to fostering an environment of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). This type of environment is not only crucial in upholding the values that Dr. King stood for, but it is also vital in creating a rich and diverse academic foundation.
- Pioneering inclusivity with the DEIB Council: The University has taken a proactive approach by establishing a DEIB Council that reflects its entire community. The council’s initiatives are comprehensive and impactful, addressing DEIB statements, setting benchmarks for progress, and implementing training and events that celebrate diversity. This council is not just about advisory roles; it’s an actionable force with the goal of integrating DEIB into the University’s DNA.
- Celebrating diversity through student groups: A testament to the University’s dedication to inclusivity is the creation and support of diverse student groups. There are 13 student organizations that support DEIB-related topics. Student organizations such as the African American Inclusion, Learning, and Guidance Network (AALIGN), the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALFPA), LGBTQ+ Students and Friends, Student Veterans of America, and Women in STEM (wSTEM) all serve as pillars of support and advocacy for their members.
On Martin Luther King Day, Consider How You Can Help Others
It is amazing how Dr. King’s dream lives on every day and how one person’s dream has become the catalyst for so many others. There are new examples of personal excellence emerging each day, which is worthy of celebration. As you observe Martin Luther King Day, think about the power behind his dream and the journey toward personal excellence that continues to inspire all of us.