MLK Day carries more significance than a simple break

Like other holidays that are observed with an absence of classes, it is easy for a typical college student to view Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a three-day weekend and nothing more.

But the third Monday in January is also one of only four federal holidays that recognizes an individual, and it is the only federal holiday that honors any aspect of the civil rights movement.

King, as we all know, was a pivotal force in the civil rights movement and advocated non-violent demonstrations and protests. But this holiday is important for dual reasons. Not only does this holiday honor his work and selflessness, but it also highlights the injustices Americans are capable of.

Throughout his years organizing non-violent demonstrations and raising awareness of the racial inequities in America, King was arrested 30 times, received countless death threats, and ultimately was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 when he was standing on a hotel balcony. The holiday honors a man who would not stop working for change, a man who was the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in history and a man whose life was cut short by the injustice he fought.

And as is said in King’s memory, there is still work to be done.

King’s holiday was not embraced by everyone at first. In fact, it wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Thirty-two years passed after King’s death before every state committed to observing his birth.

And now, eight years since that point, close to 40 years since the civil rights movement in America peaked, we can all still learn from King and his dedication to bringing positive change and standing up against great odds for what is right.

There is still work to be done in America. Martin Luther King Jr. Day reminds us of this. It reminds us of two conflicting sides of our history: the dark, oppressive portions, and the strength of individuals who overcome. It reminds us of one individual who gave his life working for equality.