Suzanne Buchholz, Reporter
For many students across the United States, Jan. 18 was a day off from school. But what some people might not consider is that it’s not just a day off of classes–it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday with historical significance. Not all people recognize this holiday for what it is, while others acknowledge it in different ways.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the life of Martin Luther King Jr., an American Civil Rights activist who fought to end racial segregation in the United States.
Born as Michael King in 1929, King later changed his name to Martin Luther King Jr., after his preacher father. He was a minister in the Baptist Church as well as a reformer who strove for equality and justice for the black community.
On Aug. 28, 1963, King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.,calling for an end to racism during what is considered a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.
After he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, a campaign began to make King’s birthday a federal holiday and eventually the bill was passed. It was first observed in 1986 but wasn’t recognized in all states until 2000, according to timeanddate.org.
Martin Luther King Day is observed in a variety of ways. Some businesses, often nonprofit organizations, close for the day, while other businesses such a department stores stay open and offer sales to their customers. Many schools and colleges close for the day as well, and schools that stay open might hold seminars and other special events to educate their students on the importance of the holiday.
Pierce College Puyallup closed on Jan. 18, but held an event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The event featured a screening of The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306, a documentary about one man’s view of King’s assassination, as well as a student panel that was open to answering questions about King’s life and legacy. This served as an opportunity for students who wanted to learn more about King to do so.
Some students at Pierce College Puyallup didn’t have much of an opinion on Martin Luther King Day, usually because their previous schooling experiences didn’t put much emphasis on it.
“I was homeschooled my entire life so it never really came up,” student Sara Scott said. “It’s not like we weren’t aware of it. It’s just a day off.”
Other students believe that the holiday should receive more recognition than it gets.
“I think it’s important because (King) did so much to help people,” student Sami Schubert said. “There should be more than just an assembly at the high school. There should be a moment of silence to honor it.”
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