This may age me, but I remember when President Reagan signed legislation creating this holiday back in 1983 - 15 years after it was first proposed. It took 3 more years for the federal holiday to go into effect. Even then, the governor of Arizona decided to rescind the holiday in his state - resulting in boycotts and even the loss of hosting the 1993 Superbowl. (Arizonans later voted to have the holiday reinstated, and all was forgiven by the NFL. They hosted the Superbowl in 1996.) Still, not all states recognized the holiday by name, nor as a paid state holiday. It wasn't until Y2K that all states were on board.
After such a struggle, it seems fitting to commemorate the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with something more than a day off school and a sale at the local mattress store. Since I'm in challenge mode this month, I'd like to throw out a challenge to all TFC readers: find a meaningful way to celebrate this day. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
Read Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Join the Day of Service. You can find organized projects in your area here, or check out the twitter feed here. If you don't see anything nearby, you could always find a way on your own to serve your community. (Hint: lots of food banks and shelters say they have more help than they need in December when people are in the giving mood, but that volunteers drop sharply once the holidays are over.)
What are you going to do with today? Any other holiday/service suggestions?