In 1971, three years after his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. Day began to be observed in some states and cities across the United States. Throughout the decade, there was a drive among labor unions to have the day recognized as a federal holiday, mostly due to them seeing Dr. King as a hero of the working-class. After much popularizing of the celebration and a couple close-calls in Congress, the bill creating a federal holiday for Dr. King was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 2, 1983. The holiday was first observed on January 20, 1986. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for state employees in 2000.

What is interesting is that the holiday is meant to mark the birthday of the civil rights leader, but most years never lands on it. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, yet this year the day is observed on January 19th. Why this floating treatment? Most likely it was due to compromising on concerns that enough time be given after New Year’s Day between the holidays. Also, lawmakers tend to favor putting federal holidays on Mondays over any other day of the week (also policy: Uniform Monday Holiday Act) due to wanting to give people a chance to enjoy a three-day weekend.

Some holidays are questionable (like President’s Day). But when it comes to celebrating the lives of those who profoundly influenced our society in a positive way, standing for those values that embody the heart and soul of our nation, they fit well. This isn’t to diminish those who fought alongside them that also sacrificed much for the freedoms we enjoy today, and it also doesn’t remove the point that all of us should not be too attached to such days at the same time…what these men and women stood for continue to exist to this day, and it is up to us to continue to stand by and champion them every day, not just the one that they are noticed. Dr, King was a man who championed equal protection and respect under the law, even when it put his life in harm’s way every day. The Jim Crow South was a hell for African Americans, and many lost their lives who dared to buck the system. King suffered death threats, breaches of etiquette and decency by the government (both state and federal), and ultimately was killed for his advocacy. But in the end, it was his hard work and tenacity in the face of hardship that helped provide the spark that launched the Civil Rights Movement of the late 50s and 60s. As long as we continue to hold that devotion to light in our hearts, that sacrifice will never be in vain.

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Let this be a reminder to those who feel that just cause the intelligence community said something that it must be true –