Losing sight of MLK day significance

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Has a day dedicated to a commemoration lost its purpose? Once a celebrated holiday devoted to remembering the monumental work of civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., MLK Jr. Day has become more commonly recognized around the Westminster campus as an additional vacation day.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated each year on the third Monday in January around the time of King’s birthday, Jan. 15. The federal holiday acknowledges the incredible progress that King made for African Americans in his nonviolent protests against racial inequality during the civil rights movement. The process of designating a holiday to King was very long and hard, with the bill to determine this honorary holiday passing a whopping 15 years after his death. The first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was especially widely celebrated in Atlanta, with numerous marches, concerts, and church services.

Being in Atlanta, the birthplace of King and the civil rights movement, the Westminster community has been greatly influenced by the change that King has made. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is also in the city and Westminster students have been on field trips to visit it frequently. The site includes King’s childhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father both preached.

Despite the large influence that MLK Jr. has had on the school, many Westminster students feel that MLK Day does not receive that recognition that it deserves on campus and is simply passed over.

“I feel like Westminster could do a much better job of celebrating and highlighting the importance of this holiday and the effects that Dr. King has had on our everyday lives,” said freshman Julia Rhee.

Many students also believe that the Westminster community is beginning to lose sight of the true meaning of the holiday and instead perceive it as simply an extra vacation day.

“I know that a lot of churches go on ski trips over MLK Day and people use the day for college trips and a day off to just get together with friends,” said sophomore Virginia Bailey.

Students were eager to share their ideas for ways that our community could better recognize the holiday.

“Maybe the school could send out an email reflecting on it’s importance and encourage students to seek out the importance of the holiday, or we could have a speaker come in,” said Bailey. “Really anything to honor Dr. King’s work [would work], because I think we have really lost sight and people are just seeing the holiday as a day off for vacation and not really as an important holiday.”

This year, it was rumored that Westminster would host an assembly in honor of MLK Day. Unfortunately, there ended up being no service because of snow-related reasons, leaving many students disappointed.

“I think having a service would have been a great idea if it would have happened,” said sophomore Lauren Kennedy. “It would have been the perfect way for the Westminster community to recognize the holiday and all of the amazing ways that Dr. King has changed our everyday lives on campus.”

In arguably the most divisive state that America, and even Westminster, has seen in its recent history, it would undeniably help to have a service dedicated to a man who brought America together. However, putting thought into practice is always a weighty challenge.