Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most iconic and accomplished individuals in America's civil rights movement. He gave a voice to the voiceless and made numerous ideas and dreams a reality when so many felt hopeless. While he was a man of great words, he was also a man of great actions who fought relentlessly for the rights of everyone.
Four days after the assassination of Dr. King in 1968, the first attempt to establish a federal holiday to honor Dr. King was made, but it was not formalized until Nov. 3, 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to establish the third Monday of every January as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. The first observance of the holiday took place in 1986, and since the year 2000, every state in our country has celebrated the accomplishments and contributions of Dr. King.
In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service, observed as a "day on, not a day off." As we mark this holiday, we celebrate and honor Dr. King's sacrifices; educate our children about the power of acceptance of all people; and show respect and understanding of different cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds. This day of service is intended to strengthen communities, bridge barriers, and move us closer to Dr. King's vision of a "beloved community."
The fight for civil rights continues today and given the turmoil in the political discourse, I hope that Californians will remember Dr. King's teachings on this holiday. To participate in the national day of service and find local community volunteer opportunities, visit nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service.