Editorial: MLK Jr. day should be remembered, celebrated

Isd Editorial Staff

Humanitarian, leader, pastor and activist. These are just a few words that describe Martin Luther King Jr. He is a significant symbol of American history, and his “I Have a Dream” speech will go down in history as being one of the greatest American speeches ever given. There are so many ways to celebrate the accomplishments of King’s life, it seems senseless to spend the day away from work and school doing anything else.

When asked what the significance of Jan. 20 was, many students would probably respond with “a day away from school,” but it was more than that. It was the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and his efforts to help mold our country into its current form. We all know he did this by contributing to the civil rights movement and changing the way that African-Americans would be viewed in the United States, so why do we spend the day out of class when we could celebrate MLK Jr.’s life with something he strongly supported: education.

This isn’t just a problem that has been witnessed in college but also in high schools across the United States. Many schools here in Iowa go to school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but they still don’t acknowledge the life of him. The situation goes both ways: Why spend the day in school to not celebrate his life, or spend the day out of school to do the same?

Are students getting the right idea for what MLK Jr. Day is all about? When looking at a calendar, people are quick to make plans for Memorial Day. Memorial Day, along with being celebrated by parties and some form of camping, also has plenty of memorial services to remember the veterans that fought for our country. Martin Luther King Jr. Day shouldn’t be any different. We should celebrate by doing things in his memory, learning about his life and what he did in the civil rights movement.

If you ask a seventh grader who Martin Luther King Jr. was, they might respond with “He gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” but do they know why he gave that speech? Do they know the events leading up to the speech such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 or that he organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted the attention of thousands of people due to the violent response of the law enforcement? Do they know that King organized and led a march on Washington, which is where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech?

Chances are the student would not have any idea about any of these events; in fact, many college students may not even be aware of the events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech or the fact that he was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality in a nonviolent manner. Simply being in school and learning about the full life of Martin Luther King Jr. would be more beneficial than spending the day at home sleeping on the couch and eating potato chips.

There is no reason to be out of school to celebrate MLK Jr. if we are unaware of the history behind him. If we are going to be spending a day commemorating Dr. King, then we should actually spend time doing so rather than making one weekend a year just one day longer.