Eastern community reflects on MLK Day

Ryan Meyer, Staff Reporter

Martin Luther King Jr. Day fell on Jan. 18th this year, and students and faculty alike considered whether the holiday took on any added significance in a year of controversy and tragedy.

King’s birthday, Jan. 15, was declared a federal holiday in 1983 and all 50 states had made it a state government holiday by 2000. The holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

Mario Smith, a sophomore history education major, believes that MLK Day has added significance this year due to the adversity the past year or so has presented.

“Mainly because in times of hardship we all have to come together as one to get through these troubled times.”

While it may be easy to treat MLK Day as just another day off school, Smith, advises people to look into the history of the holiday and its significance.

“Some advice I have is to always view the bigger picture, meaning look at the origin and legacy of this holiday, the reason we have it and why it is important,” Smith said.

Smith said the holiday is important because it reminds people of the progress King helped initiate and serves as a reminder for the progress yet to come.

“Because it honors the man who died for everyone to have equality,” Smith said. “It’s a day to remember how far we’ve come as a people and still how far we have to go.”

Regénte Myers, a junior broadcast journalism major, also said that students should use the holiday to inform themselves about current events rather than treating the day as a vacation.

“Some advice I would have is to use this day to educate yourself about what’s going on in the world,” Myers said. “It’s important not to be oblivious and think that MLK Day is just another day.”

Melinda Mueller, professor and chair in the political science department, also noted that while spending the holiday engaging in volunteer opportunities would be something King would’ve valued, the pandemic offers the opportunity to spend the day learning more about getting along and working with others.

“If we weren’t in a state of pandemic, there’s often volunteer opportunities, and I think that’s something that MLK would’ve really valued and encouraged us to do.”

Mueller also said that King’s legacy serves as inspiration for those fighting or advocating for causes.

“I’ve always thought that MLK is like an inspiration to so many people in terms of how to fight for a cause you believe in, how to encourage others to advocate for what they believe in,” Mueller said.

Defending beliefs has always been important, Mueller said, but this year King’s lessons take on more significance because of the country’s recent events.

“And historically it’s always important but certainly this year with everything that we’ve gone through, from COVID to Black Lives Matter to dealing with the insurrection last week, it really reminds me how much we value democracy and value our First Amendment rights and value the ability to protest. He really encouraged us and was a role model to so many of us.”

Kevin Anderson, a political science professor, paraphrased King as saying that if protestors were apprehended, they would take the fall because of their dedication to the cause.

“King very much said, ‘You willingly accepted the punishment, so if that meant that they were going to handcuff you and drag you off to jail, you went.’ Because your loyalty to the principle was greater than this sort of need to be right.”

On the subject of using violence as a means of achieving a goal, Anderson referenced a King quote that remains relevant in the country’s current climate.

“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind… Violence ends by destroying itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers,” King said.

Anderson also described King’s dedication to methods that could be described as practicing what one preaches.

“If your goal is to discover an integrated, peaceful world, you want to have an integrated, peaceful method of protest,” Anderson said.

 

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]