Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Day On - Not a Day Off

As many of you know, Martin Luther King day is next Monday, January 17th. This should be more than a federal holiday, more than simply a nice, easy three-day weekend. Martin Luther King was one of the most influential reformers of modern history, and his enduring legacy is not something that should be taken lightly. In the words of our now ex-governor Gary Locke, Martin Luther King Day is "a day on, not a day off."

While we remember the monumental gains for African-Americans MLK helped to achieve and the millions of people he inspired to work for social and economic justice, we must also remember that his dream did not die with him on April 4th, 1968. The quest for social and economic justice, contrary to popular belief, has not yet been won. We must take Dr. King's immortal words, "I have a dream," to heart as we work for the benefit of all Americans, indeed all humanity. It is imperative that we take principled stands while not veering off into rigid ideological delusion, demagoguery, or political opportunism. Though reform and principled change may not be politically popular, they must be championed each and every day, lest King's ideals fall to the wayside. It is important to remember that King was publicly vilified for much of his career and was, in effect, rocking the delicate status quo of the 1950s that few wanted to disrupt. An important lesson can be learned here: what is right is not always popular, nor is that which is popular always right.

And here's where progressives can take charge. Alas, much of Dr. King's dream has been as yet unfulfilled. African-Americans are still more likely to find themselves in prison than they are in universities, more likely to be in poverty than any other ethnic group, and even today face discrimination everywhere from housing to the workplace. Other minorities lag behind in education and employment. King's message can be applied to poor whites as well, many of whom are a mere paycheck away from homelessness and starvation. Solving these dilemmas must be the mission of progressives everywhere if we are to remain a potent force in American politics.

So on Martin Luther King Day, don't simply revel in your day off. Get off your butt and do something in accordance with Dr. King's legacy. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a nursing home, a daycare center, a park, anywhere you feel you can make a difference. MLK Day should be a day of community stewardship, not one of lethargy.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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