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Celebrate Justice: Martin Luther King
Independence Day has fireworks. Thanksgiving has travel and turkey. And on Veteran’s Day, flags flutter on front porches all over America to honor those who served their country in the military.
But as federal holidays go, the one commemorating the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. is relatively young. Signed into law in 1983, and officially observed for the first time three years later, has enough time passed for a consensus to form around the single best way to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?
Customs vary. For many, honoring Dr. King on this day inspires volunteerism and community service. For others, it’s a day to take part in educational and arts programs about King’s life and works, and learning more about the history of the civil rights movement.
For 76-year old Brother Paul McDonough, a member of the Christian Brothers Catholic religious order, who coordinates services to families at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, his favorite way to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to reach out far beyond the comfort of the everyday and listen. Each year, for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, McDonough journeys roughly 300 miles from Chicago to St. Louis to attend a service at the Old Courthouse where participants reflect on the slain civil rights leader’s life and legacy. “We need constant reminders,”McDonough said as he thought back on the ways that Dr. King’s example influenced his own life when McDonough was a young college graduate in the early 1960s. It was King’s moral courage and clarity that moved McDonough to re-examine his values in light of the unequal treatment of African Americans and to work for justice.