Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, January 16, 2012, is the third Monday in January—the designated day each year to celebrate the life of a great American and world leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year marks the 26th time millions of Americans and citizens in countries around the world pause to honor a man who gave his life in the cause of civil rights for African Americans, and by extension, in the cause of freedom for oppressed people everywhere. Dr. King demonstrated the power of nonviolent protest in the face of very violent opposition, joining the roster of other courageous global leaders and Nobel Peace Laureates that include the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Tawakkol Karman.
The first observance of the Martin Luther King Day Federal holiday legislation, passed in 1983, was January 20, 1986. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act redefining the day of observance from “holiday” to “day of action.” Unlike on other Federal holidays, people are asked to observe MLK Day by volunteering time to a project of their choosing, and to reflect on this quote from Dr. King, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others today?”