Should We Have Off for MLK Day?
Though it’s everyone’s favorite January long weekend, I can’t help but wonder why classes are canceled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The national holiday celebrating King’s birthday is a relatively new holiday, having been signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and indeed it has not been universally appreciated since its passage. In fact, it wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states recognized it as a holiday. Arizona in particular, led by John McCain, was against the holiday and withheld its support for years.
While in retrospect MLK is seen as a symbol of justice and purity, his actual life story was not nearly that simple. King was investigated by the FBI on suspicions of being a communist spy, and he is thought to have been both a frequent adulterer (one biographer called it “compulsive sexual athleticism”) and a plagiarist.
So maybe the good Reverend wasn’t the BEST role model, but I can look past that. Let’s assume that he is worthy of a national holiday. The question remains: why does MLK Day receive preference over other national holidays that commemorate individuals, such as Columbus Day and President’s Day (Washington’s Birthday)?
At Penn State, and many other institutions, time off is given for MLK day, but not for either of those holidays. To me, this doesn’t make sense. Vikings aside, Columbus discovered America and we’d all probably be in England right now without him. President’s Day celebrates all of our great leaders, some of whom I would argue had a greater impact on the civil rights movement than Dr. King. Where’s their recognition? Where’s their CNN correspondent? Perhaps next Wednesday we should just ask Soledad what she thinks…