Every year, on the third Monday of January, the United States celebrates the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The federal holiday created in his honor attempts to acknowledge his nonviolent participation in events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington and the Birmingham Campaign. In contrast to the violent events of the 1950s and 60s, Dr. King expressed his faith in society by peacefully protesting racial inequality and injustice. Although his thirteen-year civil rights career led to the desegregation of the South, Dr. King’s work has done much more for society in general. Most acknowledge that, in the absence of Dr. King’s efforts, Thurgood Marshall may not have been the first African American Supreme Court Justice and this country may not have had the opportunity to witness Clarence Thomas be the second. Indeed, without Dr. King Colin Powell may not have been Secretary of State and Barack Obama may not have been elected President (twice!). Despite these historic triumphs, what’s most inspiring about Dr. King’s legacy is the fact that it permeated all cultures and all races. Today, campaigns for gay rights and equal pay for women gain headway in part because of Dr. King. Even newly formed movements, like Occupy Wall Street, employ Dr. King’s tactics by conveying the importance of a cause through a series of essays. Clearly, Dr. King is worthy of a day of remembrance not simply because of his Nobel Peace Prize or his achievements as an activist but because of the impact his beliefs still have on America. Although it is guaranteed that we will honor Martin Luther King Jr. on every third Monday of January, it is imperative we learn from Martin Luther King Jr. every other day in between. With issues like those in Fisher v. Texas, Moncrieffe v. Holder and Hollingsworth v. Perry, it seems Dr. King’s dream is still a reality in progress.
BLSA at UVA