Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only American to have his own federal holiday. And winter break is just a memory now, but if you were lucky enough to get away, you probably drove in a city with a street named after him. I found them in every city I passed through, without even looking for them. And President Obama officially dedicated his new memorial in Washington D.C. on Oct. 16.
If he were still living, King would have turned 83 years old on Jan. 15. No one knows what he could have accomplished in the years that were taken away from him. But in his short 39 years, he created a legacy that has yet to be rivaled by anyone and will likely never be forgotten. Forty-three years after his death, we not only still remember him, we are honoring him in increasingly more significant ways. His likeness sits etched in stone among the greatest presidents in United States history, men who shaped our country and made it into a country that inspires pride.
Not only does King belong among these men, some may wonder why it took so long for him to get there. In fact, it may seem that we’ve always celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day, but it took until January 2000 for all 50 states to officially observe the day, even after President Regan made it an official holiday in 1983.
His message still means as much today as it did when he spoke the words himself. I doubt there is a person out there who doesn’t know his famous “I have a dream” speech. However, he did so much more in his limited time here than most people realize. He wrote five books, was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, entered college when he was only 15 and earned his Ph.D. by the time he was 26. He fought for justice and taught anyone who listened how to use peace as a weapon. Posthumously, he was awarded a Grammy, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and The Congressional Gold Medal. Most people will be lucky to accomplish just one of those achievements in their lifetime.
It’s great to have a three-day weekend in January, but let’s never forget why we have it. Let’s never forget to honor the man who was born on January 15, 1929 and dedicated his life to ending social injustice and making us all better people.