In 1983 federal legislation created an annual holiday on the third Monday of January to celebrate the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. From its beginnings, the focus has been not simply on remembering King but continuing his efforts for social change by volunteering in communities. Then in 1994 the King Holiday and Service Act, coauthored by Congressman John Lewis and Senator Harris Wofford, was signed into law making MLK Day a National Day of Service. Lewis wanted the holiday to be “a day on, not a day off,” where Americans could join together to improve their communities.
Volunteering embodies well King’s teachings. It can help establish unity and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Volunteering extends beyond the immediate outcomes of the service, acting as a catalyst for further change. Engaging in service to one’s community can foster understanding and empathy by bringing people from different backgrounds together. It provides a means for learning and dialogue, enabling individuals to comprehend societal issues from various perspectives and work collaboratively toward new solutions.
MLK Day is not just about history but an invitation to participate in shaping a better future. It is a call to action, urging individuals to embody the principles of equality and justice. In 1957 King asserted, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" To learn more about MLK Day volunteer programs and activities near you use the Corporation for National and Community Service's volunteer search tool. To find out more about King and his work, check out our book display on the Library’s main floor.