Congress and President Reagan initiated the federal holiday, first proposed by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and United States Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA), in 1983. It marks a seminal point in the discrediting of institutionalized racism in this country. In doing so, like the second election of Obama, it has elevated the spirits and mental health of one of the nation's largest and most cruelly mistreated minorities.
Some of the events of the holiday celebrate both occasions. Americans volunteered in their communities on Saturday to honor the legacy of service left by the slain civil right leader.
Jackson, Mississippi, held a parade in King's honor. It was marred by the noontime shooting in the chest of a 23-year-old man by another man. The shooter has not yet been apprehended.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, former president of the NAACP and widow of assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers, will deliver the Inaugural invocation. Ms. Evers-Williams will be the first woman and first layperson ever to do so. President Obama plans swear his oath on a Bible that belonged to the Dr. King as well as one used by President Lincoln.
At Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King preached, a service is held on MLK Day every year. In 2013, participants will watch the later inauguration of President Obama on a big screen.
And the big gray bow hat Aretha Franklin wore as she sang "America" ("My Country 'Tis of Thee") at Obama's first inauguration will reappear this year, according to its designer, Luke Song. Song says hundreds of requests for copies of the hat have come in during the last several weeks.
Let us recognize the corrosive impact of today's shooting as a reminder of the past, not a harbinger of events to come, and as another reason to readjust the role of firearms in the American society of 2013.
Sandy Dechert, an award-winning science writer, covers health and energy issues for Examiner.com. Over the past several years she has reported on science news, including perspectives on the recently concluded 18th UN climate change summit meeting, the 2012 presidential election, and the Affordable Care Act. Sandy's current emphasis is on climate change.
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