Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” That is why the slogan of the national holiday that marks his birthday is “A day on, not a day off.” In 1994, Congress declared the federal holiday to be a day of service.
President Barack Obama and his family will serve food to families in need on Martin Luther King Day Monday. “Dr. King taught us that ‘an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,’” the president said in a proclamation for MLK Day. “In honor of this spirit, Americans across the country will come together for a day of service.”
King Day service projects are planned throughout New York City. The MLK Day Supper in Park Slope will help those in need by providing a hot meal and a warm smile, according to the federal MLK Day website, Serve.gov/mlkday. A food pantry in Fort Richmond is getting an extreme pantry makeover so that clients can shop in a supermarket-like setting. Collecting warm coats for the poor, baking sweet treats for children, painting nonprofits, reading one on one with children, and organizing games for teenagers are among the New York City King Day good deeds.
“When you talk to the American people, you know that there are people working in soup kitchens, and people who are mentoring, and people who are starting small businesses and hiring their neighbors, and very rarely are they checking are they Democrat or Republican. There’s a sense of neighborliness that’s inherent in the American people—we just have to tap into that,” Obama said in a Jan. 9 speech. The administration wants the day to start a national year of action.
“Volunteering is a core American tradition that can help lift up a community’s spirits and improve its economic well-being. As citizens work alongside each other to solve problems, they will gain valuable skills and experience and be inspired to volunteer year-round,” stated Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in an announcement.
A Short, Altruistic Life
King lived to be 39. He left a widow and four children when he was assassinated. He was born Jan. 15 1929, in Atlanta, and died April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. He won a Nobel Prize for Civil Rights and Social Justice in 1964. He led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. One of his most famous quotes is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He wrote it in 1963 in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” where he was being held for protesting segregation.