Martin Luther King Day coming up Monday, January 17

Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, Jan. 17, will be Martin Luther King Day, in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pictured here with Malcolm X. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

On Monday, Jan. 17, the annual observance of Martin Luther King Day will be held. The day is the celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a key figure in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. It is a federal holiday, and most federal offices will close, as will banks.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day on third Monday of January

As is the custom, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of every January, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day for 2011 falls on Jan. 17. King was born Jan. 15, 1929, but like other holiday observances such as Columbus Day, the observance is scheduled for a day of the week instead of a calendar date. Government offices, such as the post office, will be closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or MLK Day as it is referred to informally. It is referred to in some states alternately as Civil Rights Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day.

Controversial beginnings

People started calling for a day of remembrance immediately after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, as he was one of the most prominent figures in the Civil Rights struggle. It took until 1983 to make it a federal holiday. Ronald Reagan opposed creating a paid holiday, but Congress voted overwhelmingly for the bill and even if he had vetoed it, the bill would have been passed over his head anyway. The loudest opposition to the bill came from Senators Jesse Helms and John McCain. McCain’s home state of Arizona was blasted in the media for being a hotbed of intolerance and racism for opposing the bill.

Take time to reflect

Though any holiday is a good time to relax if one gets the day off from work, it can be taken for granted that a lot of really important advances have been made in this country in the last century. The right of women to vote, the end of racial segregation and many other things seem commonplace now but were once great controversies, and Martin Luther King Day should be a time for celebrating advancements in human rights.

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