No School on Monday?

January 22, 2020

. . “I have a dream. . .”  Are the four most famous words in Martin Luther King Jr’s powerful speech that would later change history. Many have grown up hearing and learning about MLK at a young age, but don’t really know the origin of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

 

As Leyden gets the day off every third Monday of January, in honor of MLK, one should know that the road to obtain this holiday was rough. Martin Luther King Day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1986 when it was first observed. This was the first holiday around a national figure who is not a president, and who is African American. Even then, this holiday faced an upward battle to be nationally recognized in 2000. 

 

“The last time I discussed about MLK Day would have been during middle school. I don’t recall having talked about it during high school, but I’m glad it’s a day that gets recognized because it celebrates the life and achievements of a hero who fought for the civil rights of all citizens.” mentioned Leyden student Elizette Vanegas. 

 

On April 8, 1968, Representative John Conyers, introduced the federal holiday, four days after King’s assassination. However, Congress failed to act on a national level. Later in 1979, President Jimmy Carter called on Congress to vote on the holiday, but the bill was defeated.

 

Stevie Wonder & Coretta Scott King

Following the defeat of the bill, musician Stevie Wonder helped by releasing the song, “Happy Birthday” to promote the holiday. The song became a hit, and in the early 1980s, MLK’s wife Coretta Scott King along with Wonder presented a petition with 6 million signatures to the Speaker of the House. 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday, and it was first celebrated in 1986. 

 

President Ronald Reagan signs the MLK holiday into law in 1983 as King’s wife Coretta Scott King watches at left.

People seem to be aboard with Martin Luther King Jr’s beliefs now,  but truth be told a lot of Americans didn’t approve of him or his work when he was alive. Two years before his death, a 1966 Gallup poll recorded that 63% of Americans had a negative opinion of him.

 

“Students should not just think “great, another day off from school”. They should know about Martin Luther King Jr’s importance and his accomplishments that led to this day. I think MLK would be proud to see the expansion of Civil Rights and the younger generations continuing this fight for equality amongst all people.” stated social studies teacher Mr. Dempsey. 

 

After three decades of contention and controversy, what once seemed unimaginable is now a dream come true. As this holiday honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, it focuses on the issue of civil rights, highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change, and calls people into public service.

 

“Although, I don’t celebrate this holiday, I take the time to reflect and be thankful for King’s actions.” said Leyden student Andrea Sandoval-Soria. 

 

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop . . . . and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

 

In his fight for equality Martin Luther King Jr. truly was a man ahead of his time. 

 

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