Monday, January 16, 2012

Free At Last, Free At Last

When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

The United States has 10 officially recognized federal holidays.

They are:
New Year's Day
The Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Washington's Birthday
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans' Day

According to the official government website, the official name of "Presidents Day" is really "Washington's Birthday," and it offers this explanation:
This holiday is designated as "Washington's Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

In other words, only one federal holiday is named after a person who was born in the United States of America.

That's a fairly large group of people, a group that has accomplished some of the singularly greatest moments in the history of mankind, in every single area of human existence (science, religion, government, athletics, women's equality, economics, discovery and on and on and on).

Only one, Martin Luther King Jr., has ever been honored by a federal holiday in his name.

Dr. King was the driving force in the civil rights movement, and his non-violent approach helped achieve monumental successes in a struggle that had begun with an entire race of people literally in chains.

The major civil rights legislation that grew out of Dr. King's movement - with, by the way, considerable help from Princeton's John Doar - was 100 years after the end of the Civil War, which presumably was fought (at the cost of 600,000 American lives) to achieve many of the end results that would take another 10 decades.

And while the major victories of the movement weren't exactly bloodless, they had a much less violent path than anyone could have ever expected.

Ironically, Dr. King himself, a man of non-violence, saw his life cut short on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated in Memphis in most violent fashion. His role in the movement, as its centerpiece, made him an inevitable target.

It's easy to dismiss certain holidays as being nothing more than a day off from school or work (in some places), an occasion for a big sale or maybe the time for a summer picnic (beginning, middle or end).

In reality, these holidays exist to honor great people, great moments, great sacrifices in American history.

Only one of them honors a man who was born an American citizen.

Princeton University athletics have ground to halt for the next two weeks for first semester exams. It's something now unique to Princeton and its academic calendar, and it has the effect of shutting down the athletic program at a time when the rest of college athletics - especially basketball and hockey - heat up.

The Martin Luther King holiday always falls during exam break, either in the beginning or middle.

TigerBlog has come to associate the holiday with the exam break, as a Monday with no events to plan for the coming weekend.

As TB is writing this, the song "Manic Monday" by the Bangles came on his iTunes.

Around here, today is hardly a "Manic Monday."

In the country, it's hardly just "another Manic Monday."

It's a very special day, a day to remember a man who stood up, strong and unarmed, and led a movement that changed American society, very much for the better.

The only person born in America to have his own federal holiday is certainly most deserving.

From the "I Have A Dream" speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Hopefully, those words don't get lost in today's world, where so much of American society is centered around money and achieving fame for fame's sake, where so much of the political discourse is reflexively combative.

Hopefully, content of character can still be what's most important.

It certainly gives TB hope for the future.


CAZ said...

While I genuinely share your sentiments about the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’m surprised that you didn’t throw a “BTW, how about those Giants!” at the end.

Maybe tomorrow.

Brian McD said...

Yeah, How about those GIANTS!