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MLK Jr. Day—a day of service

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Derrick D. Hodges
  • 375th Operations Group Deputy commander
I like holidays. Actually, I love holidays and wish we had many more of them. Special dinners, family gatherings, three-day weekends and four-day work weeks are all simple pleasures that soothe my soul.

Of the 1,100 proposals for federal holidays that have ever been considered, the United States Congress has only approved 10 permanent annual holidays that we celebrate each year. Only 10!

Just 10 times throughout the year, federal employees have an opportunity to push away from work and reflect on some of the most important people and milestones in our history. We celebrate both the discovery and founding of our great nation. We honor special groups of Americans that are central to Americana such as past presidents, our veterans, our workers, and our war dead. Of course we celebrate the "big three" holidays every year with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. My tradition for each of these events is a relaxing day with family to reflect on the occasion at hand.

But one federal holiday is different. Signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday is a celebration of the hope and healing that Dr. King brought to America. His message of justice and equality for all, bundled in the values of compassion, humility, and service, delivered unprecedented nonviolent social change.

MLK Jr. Day is also different because of its call to action. In 1993, President Clinton signed federal legislation that challenged Americans to transform this celebration into a day of citizen volunteer service. The goal is to continue to solve social problems through service projects that empower people and strengthen communities.

We recognize Dr. King because of his inspiring words and progressive vision, but to truly honor his day we should acknowledge that he was also man of action. Simply stated, Dr. King both "talked the talk" and "walked the walk" to affect change in a manner consistent with our own Air Force core values--he knowingly endured grave threats in the name of democracy for all Americans.

We've made great progress after more than 30 celebrations of the MLK Jr. Holiday and the 20 plus anniversaries of the initial MLK Jr. Day of Service. 2015 is an important year for this event and continued progression will only make our community stronger. On Jan. 19, I challenge you to "walk the walk." Identify a cause or issue that you find important and give some of your time to affect change.