MLK Day of Service: How You Can Honor the Legacy Of the Civil Rights Hero

Most can agree that there is little to look forward to after the holidays end, but the cold wintry season still in swing. Yet one of the best parts of these chilly months is the chance to benefit from the plethora of government holidays like MLK and Presidents Day. But rather than hitting the slopes for the long weekend or chasing down holiday weekend bargains, millions of people are treating MLK Day as a day on, not a day off. There is a large contingent of people who see this holiday as way to honor the man who gave so much to the world by doing their part to give back to their community.

Thus, this idea has inspired the national movement to make MLK Day the holiday, into MLK Day the Day of Service.

A relatively new holiday, MLK Day was first observed in 1986 and has a fought an uphill battle to be recognized by all states as a federal holiday (South Carolina didn’t recognize it as a national holiday until 2000).

In San Francisco, volunteers will be heading to Golden Gate Park, where they will help clean and restore the historic parklands. In New York, residents can join Food Bank for New York City to help prepare and serve meals to those in need. Even the Obamas got in the spirit last year, volunteering at Browne Education Center in Washington, DC, where the family helped build bookshelves in a reading corner for students (though they’ll be a little busy this year because of the inauguration).

That’s not to mention the countless rallies, marches, and other events planned to celebrate the legacy of a man who spent his life in service to others. Check your local news (or the government sponsored MLK Day of Service website) and you're bound to find a ton of activities centered on the life of Dr. King as people take a moment to remember what he stood for and why it’s important to stand for it today.

It’s hard to say whether the modest reverend-turned-imitable civil rights figurehead would be incredibly honored or humbly embarrassed by a national holiday in his name. Although l have little authority to speak on behalf of man who means so much to so many people, I do feel like I can say with conviction that one thing would be true. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have not used the government holiday as an excuse to stop doing the work that he believed in: making the world a more just and peaceful place for all.

In taking the time out to help others, we are really becoming the great people that Dr. King believed us all to be. For as he so eloquently stated, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” 

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Camira Powell

A California girl in every way, Camira was born in raised in Santa Cruz, CA. She is now a proud Stanford Cardinal of the Class of 2013 majoring in Communication. Her interests are varied, including international development, Civil Rights, Education Policy and Women's issues, and the intersections that exist between these subjects

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