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A Day On, Not Off
You may be aware that a federal holiday marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was signed into legislation in 1983. First observed in 1986, we commemorate Dr. King by remembering his legacy and his work for the advancement of racial equality. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his death in 1968.
Many, however, may not know that in 1994, Congress designated the third Monday in January as the MLK Day of Service. It’s the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.”
Dr. King’s passion for service, of course, fueled his leadership in the movement to end segregation during the civil rights movement that started in the mid-1950s. In 1956, to protest Montgomery’s segregated bus system, Dr. King led the bus boycott after Rosa Parks’ arrest. This led to the Supreme Court decision to integrate Alabama bus lines. In 1963, Dr. King helped organize the March for Jobs and Freedom, which became known as the March on Washington. It was here that he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for an end to racism. The march proved crucial in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In December 1964, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his nonviolent resistance to racism in America. He was only 35 years old. These are just a few of Dr. King’s notable accomplishments.
Through his achievements and his life, we can see that Dr. King believed in a nation of freedom and justice for all people, calling on all citizens to make this country a better place to live. The MLK Day of Service is a way for any citizen to apply Dr. King’s teachings to community action.
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Awareness and participation in MLK Day of Service has only grown since being signed by Congress. More and more Americans are honoring Dr. King’s legacy each year through volunteering. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands have impacted communities through tutoring and mentoring children, painting schools and senior centers, delivering meals, and building homes. For more information on the MLK Day of Service and for service opportunities, please visit the
Corporation for National and Community Service
No matter the size of your estate, we believe that the heart of generosity is a giving and serving spirit that glorifies God, and that serving is, of course, not limited to any particular holiday. We would encourage you to draw inspiration from Dr. King’s legacy throughout the year by generously giving from those resources with which you have been blessed, including your time, talents, and treasures.
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