Isn’t it convenient to always have your birthday on a Monday? (Well, it would be if ML King, Jr., like I do, took his birthday off.) For the record, his birthday was actually January 15 and he would have been 80 this year.
Who woulda thunk that Ronald Reagan would be the one to sign the holiday into law in 1983? It was first in 1986, but there was a lot of resistance, and it wasn’t observed in all 50 states, the Wikipedia notes, until 2000.
I was fascinated by the discussion before it became a holiday, as noted here:
“There were many who opposed the idea of holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays – George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
“One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist.
“Others feared the King holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day.
“Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics “I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination.”
The Holiday’s Campaign Song
As I pondered writing this piece, before looking up any sources, I was going to suggest that the King holiday WAS a sort of reparations for slavery and its aftermath. And then I discover it’s Bob Dole -BobDole! – who had already laid out an economic justification for the holiday.
There’s a lot out there about the significance of today in light of what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just Google king obama and you’ll know what I mean.
So I hope that today’s more than just a day off. The holiday’s become a day of community service; I believe the Obamas will be doing just that. Quiet reflection would also be OK; there are lots of books out there – here are three picture books recommended by Rebecca, e.g. Or you can go celebrate at an event. Quiet, loud – I don’t care.
One thing to check out, somewhat to my surprise, is the B.C. comic strip for January 18, 2009.