Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is considered as one of the American Federal Holidays. It is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of January every year because of the Uniform Mondays Holiday Act put forth by Congress. Mr. King’s actually birthday was on January 15, 1929. Martin Luther King was the spokesperson in the 1950’s and 1960’s for civil rights in the United States.
The campaign for this federal holiday was made just after the assassination of MLK on April 4, 1968. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed and made King’s birthday into federal law which had been observed inside the fifty states since 1986. Martin Luther King Day was promoted by labor unions after his death.
John Conyers (D-Michigan), one of the United States Representatives and Senator Edward Brooke (R-Massachusetts) introduced a bill to Congress stating that the birthday of Martin Luther King should be recognized as a National Holiday. The first main argument against the bill was that the paid holiday for employees was too expensive. The other argument was that the holiday dedicated to a private citizen was rare (Columbus anyone?) and that the only other U. S. citizen to have that honor was George Washington.
The King center petitioned the corporate community as well as the general public to pass the bill in the Congress. When Stevie Wonder hosted a Rally for Peace Press Conference in the late 1981, they collected six million signatures in order to pass the law into the Congress. Stevie Wonder also created a song called “Happy Birthday” dedicated to King that also acted as a call to action.
On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the said bill in the White House Rose Garden. The bill was proposed by Katie Hall who was the Representative of Indiana who aimed to create a Federal Holiday to honor Martin Luther King.
The Martin Luther King Day of Service was initiated by former Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania together with Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta. Arizona State University also participates in the Martin Luther King Day of Service and some of the members of volunteer centers spend their time in order to transform the day into a day of citizen volunteer service in honor of MLK. There are also places outside the United States that observe the MLK’s birthday and those are Hiroshima, Japan and Toronto, Canada.
Hiroshima, Japan holds a banquet in the office of mayor in order to honor the message of Martin Luther King that involves human rights and call for peace. In 1984, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a Navy chaplain conducted the first ever Presidential ceremony in Israel to commemorate Martin Luther King and that was held in the President’s residence in Jerusalem. Martin Luther King Day will serve as a reminder to every individual that human rights are an important and continuing endeavor.
Rumor Has It …
… that Martin Luther King once performed the Chicken Dance while marching in the New Year’s Day parade in Pasadena, California. Doing the Hokey Pokey would come much later.