On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill designating a federal holiday to recognize Dr. King. We observe it on the third Monday in January so it falls close to his birthday.
Upon signing the bill, Reagan remarked:
“[M]ost important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.
But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'”
The Guide to a Greater Purpose
In 1955, Dr. King offered sound guidance to protestors then, and now:
“Let conscience be your guide” … [O]ur actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith. Love must be our regulating ideal. Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”
King’s legacy as a leader endures because of Who he followed:
“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”