Remembering our common cause on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
How we can benefit from the holiday.
Since 1986, the third Monday of January each year has been observed as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, although the federal holiday was not observed as such by all 50 states until 1999.
Although, unlike Washington’s Birthday, it has not yet suffered the indignity of becoming an excuse for launching weekend-long mattress and furniture sales, it seems to me this civil-rights leader’s observance in some ways hasn’t risen to the same tier of some other federal holidays.
Why is that?
Maybe, in our own way, Americans are quietly drawing closer to embracing the double-vision reality of our heritage. Our greatest qualities − our courage, vision and determination to grow and overcome − have at times come at undeniable, unbearable cost.
When, last year, the annual celebration of Columbus Day was greeted with an outcry of “foul” by some who protested the merits of its namesake, I sort of bowed out of the whole scene. We have our rituals, and the reasons for them don’t always make sense or hold up to close scrutiny. I think that’s human nature. We hold close what’s important, and push away what we feel may devalue it.
I hope whoever reads these words today can celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year by doing one, but not the other. Find a way to treasure the people, causes and beliefs that give your life meaning and purpose.
And pull a bit closer to those who treasure people, causes and beliefs that differ from, or perhaps even diametrically oppose, what you hold dear.
We all need each other; we all have fought for who we are and what we have. This holiday is an occasion when we can acknowledge that all has not been fair, but all has not been lost. While actions are louder than words, our words also have power and impact that can reverberate far beyond their original intent. Let’s make them count.
When all is said and done, we may benefit from their ripples.