Remembering a Servant

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Holmes
  • 4th Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity
 "Every man must decide whether he will walk in light of altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The aforementioned quote comes from a man who was the epitome of a servant. We all have the option of being ordinary or servants. One clear distinction between being ordinary and being a servant is an attitude born out of determination to better the lives of others. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy lives today because of his determination to serve others.

Dr. King was born and raised in Atlanta. He grew up in a middle-class family, the son of a Baptist Pastor, Rev. Michael Luther King Sr. and mother Alberta Williams King. The King family took a trip to Europe in 1934 where then Reverend King renamed himself and his son (then Michael Luther King Jr.) after the well-known Christian German Protestant leader Martin Luther; hence, marking a defining moment in the life of service Dr. King would later establish. Throughout his youth, Martin Luther King Jr. witnessed firsthand accounts of segregation and was astonished at the differences between race relations in the North vs. the South. While staying on a tobacco farm in Connecticut one summer, Dr. King wrote a letter to his parents stating, "Negroes and Whites go to the same church. I never thought a person of my race could eat anywhere."

Dr. King devoted his life for equality and justice for all people through non-violent societal change and was undoubtedly the most noted leader of the civil rights movement. His achievements included traveling more than six million miles between 1957 and 1968, conducting speaking engagements in locations where there was civil unrest and led a 382 day bus boycott to end segregation on public transportation. Additionally Dr. King directed a non-violent march along with 250,000 civil rights advocates to deliver his infamous "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. At only 35 years old, Dr. King was the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the midst of these sacrifices and achievements, Dr. King was assassinated April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated. However, the assassination of Dr. King never outweighed the measure of his service.

In 1983, the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday was first signed as a proposed bill by former President Ronald Regan in honor of his legacy, but was not observed until 1986. In 1999, New Hampshire was the last state to have a holiday named after Martin Luther King Jr. In 2000, all 50 states collectively observed the Martin Luther King Jr. day as a federal holiday. On an international scale, more than 140 countries recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday continues with a recurring theme, "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off!" In recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday it is important to acknowledge the sacrifices he made on behalf of many and celebrate his life of dedicated service.

Dr. King inspires present day as well as future leaders to give their lives to service. It is through presidential proclamation that Americans are encouraged to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday with appropriate civic, community and service programs in honor of his legacy and life. Dr. King walked in the light of altruism and will forever be remembered as a servant.