Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The People We Honor

When I started school, we had two holidays in the first two months of the year: Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, and Washington's Birthday on February 22. (Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731, but that was according to the Julian calendar, and his birthday moved to the 22nd when the British Empire changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.) Lincoln's birthday was a state rather than federal holiday, but I grew up in Connecticut where it was observed, so I didn't know the difference.

We still have two holidays in the first two months of the year, but now they are Martin Luther King’s Birthday on the third Monday in January, and Washington's Birthday (also called Presidents' Day) on the third Monday in February.

Washington is called the father of our country. Lincoln is credited with ending slavery and keeping the United States one nation. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for civil rights. None of these endeavors was a one-person job, but it is useful to have a single person to serve as a symbol for the struggle. All three men risked their lives for what they believed in, and it is ironic that the one who actually fought military battles died in bed, while the two who sought peace and justice for all were assassinated. I wonder what this says about the relative popularity of war and peace.

I really don't feel the need for a holiday less than three weeks after New Year's Day, which is a week after Christmas, giving us three federal holidays in less than five weeks, especially when the next holiday on the calendar isn't until the end of May. I do feel, however, that it is important to honor Dr. King's memory and to continue his work. The fight for civil rights isn't over yet.


  1. The fight for civil rights is for sure not over, but last week I read Black Like Me and yesterday I read Twelve Years A Slave. There has been some improvement. I think it important that we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, especially because then kids get taught about him in school. I have always wondered how we came to celebrate only those two presidents' birthdays as holidays. I'll have to look that up.

  2. I read Black Like Me when it first came out, and I still remember it vividly. Talk about a thought-provoking book!