How can students honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Jasmine Fleming

Since 1986, the third Monday of January has been Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For most students, it is known as the first small break from the semester. Usually, I sleep in and treat it as a three-day weekend, while possibly catching the “I Have a Dream” speech on TV or the radio.

This year, I began to question my lackluster participation in such an important holiday. I know Martin Luther King Jr. is to be celebrated, but how?

After doing some research, I found “The Meaning of the King Holiday,” an essay by Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife Coretta Scott King.

“The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality,” she said.

Throughout the letter, Coretta Scott King discusses the services Martin Luther King Jr. provided his country. He was an example of the impact of nonviolent protest. He showed love to those who showed him hatred. She explained how he showed tolerance and forgiveness to those who treated him and other Americans fighting for civil rights harshly and threateningly.

In the letter, Coretta Scott King also mentions service. The best way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, she said, is to serve your fellow man and to share the loving spirit he had.

“It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream,” she said.

This call to volunteerism has led to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. This nationally recognized service opportunity allows individuals to help others in any way they see fit. Some communities have yearly service initiatives that can be participated in. There is also an option to create a service event., a search engine for service opportunities, can be used to search for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service events near any city. The Honors Program page on also lists plenty of organizations that need volunteers. Wherever you are during the holiday, there is bound to be a service opportunity nearby.

Instead of using the holiday as an extended weekend, I challenge everyone, including myself, to participate in some sort of service. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy can best be remembered when we emulate his kindness. Whether you dedicate the entire day to an event or simply pay it forward at a coffee shop, performing some selfless act is a small way to thank him for his incredible leadership.

After all, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”