(Host) Commentator Traci Griffith shares her thoughts on today’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
(Griffith) There are ten federal holidays that we celebrate in the U.S. Today’s national holiday commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Just as with every other federal holiday, public school kids have the day off; banks are closed, as is the post office.
Yet, if you ask most Americans what they plan to do today, those plans generally have nothing to do with the slain civil rights leader or any observance of his ideals.
This isn’t one of the big holidays. It doesn’t usher in the summer like Memorial Day. There’s no big family gathering associated with it like at Thanksgiving. Few flags are flown and even fewer greeting cards are purchased in celebration of the day. Yet we’ve decided that this is a day worth commemorating. Why? What is so significant about this one American that earned him a national holiday?
It is true that Martin Luther King, Jr. led a national movement that helped us as a nation recognize that this country was not living to its potential. He protested and pushed for changes that led to federal laws that provide equal access to education, transportation and housing. His impact is felt throughout this country every day of our lives.
But what I think this holiday celebrates most is those Americans who will never have a national holiday; yet they still contribute mightily toward making this country a better place for all of us.
Think about your child’s grade school teacher, struggling to make ends meet on a teacher’s paycheck. Think about the family farmer, battling against Mother Nature, the federal government and the banks to bring the crops in. Think about firefighters and police officers and soldiers who risk their lives in service to us. This is their holiday.
More than any other national holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. day is a celebration of one man’s contribution to this nation and the profound effect it has on all of us. But it is also a celebration of the many Kings out there who contribute in small ways every day. They may not change a nation’s destiny, but they may change one life at a time.
Martin Luther King, J. day celebrates those teachers, farmers and firefighters who will never have their own holiday. So let’s celebrate them today. Send a thank-you note to someone who has made your world better. Light some fireworks or fly a flag or go to church and say a prayer for someone who contributes to your life in small but important ways. Buy that police officer a cup of coffee and say thanks for helping to make Vermont better for all of us.
More than anything, the Matrin Luther King, Jr. holiday should serve to remind us that there are Kings all around us.
I’m Traci Griffith of Williston.
Traci Griffith is a professor of journalism at Saint Michael’s College.