Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. There is an enormous amount of commentary about Dr. King in the news right now, and rightfully so. His legacy of equality and peaceful opposition to injustice is something that has changed our nation for the better.
For my part, let me make one small but telling observation about Dr. King's legacy. What strikes me is how deeply entrenched MLK Day is in our societal fabric for such a new holiday. The federal holiday honoring Dr. King was only established in 1983, and it was not observed in all fifty states until 1999--only seven short years ago. Seven!
So just a few years ago we were debating whether there should be a full-fledged, nationwide holiday or not. Does anyone remember the song "By the Time I Get to Arizona" by Public Enemy that criticized Arizona's refusal to observe MLK Day? (PE is one of my favorite groups ever, by the way--intelligent and passionate political music.) And when I was in law school in the early 1990s, even major law schools (which are almost all liberal in outlook) did not all officially cancel classes. But today, here in Mississippi, my law school is officially closed today. And I think that is just wonderful.
So all the recent furor over whether a holiday was deserved or not has quickly faded, and rightly so. While we still have a long way to go, in an odd way that is a sort of progress.