Martin Luther King, Jr. represented a new beginning for America during the 1950s and 1960s. Among other civil rights activists, such as Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, King was such a driving force for people’s right to equality that a national holiday has been created to honor him.
As a Baptist minister and a social activist, King was optimistic about making a world where his children would grow up to be who they wanted to be, regardless of their race. By following Mahatma Gandhi’s example of nonviolent protests, King played a key role in the American Civil Rights Movement by leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and the March on Washington in 1963. He inspired those around him to fight for equality for African Americans, the poor, and the victims of injustice. His equality-seeking efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year that the Civil Rights Act was enacted.
Because of King’s eagerness to help others and his optimism that equality would be granted for all, the United States wanted to honor him. Thus, in 1986, January 18th was declared as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The holiday is meant to remember King’s nonviolent protests against injustice and his willingness to help others. It is a day to celebrate and to inspire people to live out his example. According to the National Service, “The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.”
You can honor Martin Luther King, Jr. not just on the 18th but also throughout the month by volunteering in your community. The National Service website allows you to enter your city or zip code to find volunteering events. These service events include: planting trees, building homes, volunteering at animal shelters, and collecting materials for drives. The events available will differ depending on your location. Have an idea to start your own service event? Create one that interests you and register it on the website.
Additionally, in honor of MLK Day, the National Park Service announced that there will be free admission to the US national parks, which will also host programs and volunteering projects.
Helping others should not just be a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day participation, but it should be a lifelong commitment. In the words of King, “What are you doing for others?”