What are your plans for today? Performing community service, taking a day off, working, or doing something else?
In his proclamation on King, President Barack Obama said:
In summoning a generation to recognize the universal threat of injustice anywhere, Dr. King's example has proven that those who love their country can change it.
A foot soldier for justice and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King lifted the quiet hopes of our nation with the powers of his voice and pen. Whether behind his pulpit in Montgomery, at a podium on the National Mall, or from his jail cell in Birmingham, he beckoned us toward justice through non-violent resistance and oratory skill.
Dr. King fought not merely for the absence of oppression but for the presence of opportunity. His soaring rhetoric impelled others to take up his cause, and with struggle and discipline, persistence and faith, those who joined him on his journey began to march. America was watching, and so they kept marching.
America was listening, and so they kept sounding the call for justice. Because they kept moving forward with unwavering resistance, they changed not only laws but also hearts and minds. And as change rippled across the land, it began to strengthen over time, building on the progress realized on buses, in schools, and at lunch counters so that eventually, it would reverberate in the halls of government and be felt in the lives of people across our country.
Obama said that King taught us that "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Obama also said:
As we reflect on Dr. King's legacy, we celebrate a man and a movement that transformed our country, and we remember that our freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of others. Given the causes he championed – from civil rights and international peace to job creation and economic justice – it is right that today we honor his work by serving others. Now more than ever, we must heed his teachings by embracing our convictions. We must live our values, strive for righteousness, and bring goodness to others.
And at a time when our politics are so sharply polarized and people are losing faith in our institutions, we must meet his call to stand in another person's shoes and see through their eyes. We must work to understand the pain of others, and we must assume the best in each other. Dr. King's life reminds us that unconditional love will have the final word – and that only love can drive out hate.