By Marc Morial
President, National Urban League
With a central part of his legacy â€“ the Voting Rights Act â€“ currently in the forefront of American dialogue via the release and success of the Ava DuVernay-directed Selma, millions of Americans have been fittingly reacquainted with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. â€“ the man, his mission and his message.
As we mark what would have been his 86th birthday today and prepare to celebrate the 30th national observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, I wanted to also focus on the meaning of the King holiday.
In the timeless words of Coretta Scott King:
“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to Americaâ€¦
We commemorate Dr. Kingâ€™s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasnâ€™t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.
On this day we commemorate Dr. Kingâ€™s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.
It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoplesâ€™ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dreamâ€¦
The King Holiday celebrates Dr. Kingâ€™s global vision of the world house, a world whose people and nations had triumphed over poverty, racism, war and violence. The holiday celebrates his vision of ecumenical solidarity, his insistence that all faiths had something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved communityâ€¦
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who canâ€™t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.
â€¦And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. â€˜Iâ€™d like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others,â€™ he said. â€˜I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my lifeâ€¦to love and serve humanityâ€¦â€™
May we who follow Martin now pledge to serve humanity, promote his teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st Century.â€
Read more at http://www.thekingcenter.org/meaning-king-holiday