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Cassidy Theatre Honors 



Martin Luther King Jr.


Why Do We Celebrate Martin Luther King Day?

I have not seen a more fitting description for why we celebrate this MLK Day, than on The King Center, a wonderful organization that was established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King as a living memorial dedicated to preserving the legacy of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and promoting the elimination of poverty, racism and war through research, education and training in Kingian nonviolence.  It goes as follows: 

"The national holiday honoring Dr. King is an occasion for joy and celebration for his life and his work toward nonviolent social change in America and the world. Traditionally, we celebrate holidays with parties, family picnics, fireworks, a trip back home or to the seashore. However, we must also be mindful that this is a special holiday - one which symbolizes our nation's commitment to peace through justice; to universal brother- and sisterhood; and to the noblest ideal of all: a democratic society based on the principles of freedom, justice and equality for all people. Whether you celebrate Dr. King's birthday on January 15th or during Black History Month, the holiday is an occasion for thanksgiving, unselfishness, and rededicating ourselves to the causes for which he stood and for which he died."

We encourage you to use this occasion as an opportunity to enlist your community in helping us to establish a lasting, living monument for honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. The King Center, the official national and international memorial dedicated to Dr. King, invites you to join us and thousands of people all over the world in creating a permanent endowment for carrying on his unfinished work. Your "birthday gift" to assist The King Center in this endeavor will assure that Dr. King's memory lives on from generation to generation.

The History of Martin Luther King Day

15 years after Dr. King's death President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

But it was a tough time getting the bill passed

First a bill had to be introduced by a member of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House assigned the bill to a committee where the bill was discussed in detail. Meetings were held where supporters and opposers could discuss their positions. The committee then agreed that bill should be sent to a vote. The Rules Committee scheduled a debate on the issue. The House of Representatives then voted on the bill. It passed the House with a vote of 338 to 90. Then it was sent to the Senate

Again the issue of the King holiday had to pass through committees and public hearings before a final vote was taken

There were many who opposed the idea of holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays - George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy

One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist

Others feared the King holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day

Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics '"I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination"

It took many years for Congress to decide to celebrate the holiday. In the years leading up to the official decree many African-Americans celebrated the birthday themselves with a few states declaring King's birthday a state holiday. The bill was finally passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law on November 2, 1983  The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took place January 20, 1986.

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