When I was younger, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was just a day off of school. It did not matter to me that he led the nation’s largest civil rights’ movement. It did not concern me that his monumental speech at the Lincoln Memorial brought the most diverse crowd together that the country had ever seen at that point. It was of no importance that the speech would still be ringing throughout this nation fifty years later. I did not care.
When I started high school, I was coincidentally filtered to the newest high school on the southwest side of DeKalb County— Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. It was there that the significance of Dr. King’s words and his vision were made personal. I remember year after year our principals ensured that the Friday before the holiday was a day of reverence to the man behind the movement. We were instructed in all our classes to incorporate his dream into our day’s work. So there I was in ninth grade, writing my own “I Have a Dream” speech in American Literature, in 10th grade making a mural of Dr. King’s face and the civil rights’ movement in art class, in 11th grade orating a speech in ode to his work and legacy in A.P. U.S. history and in 12th grade marching down the hallway of my high school. It was engrained in us to not let the naming of our high school be in vain.
Now, here I am 23 years old, a graduate student in the Multicultural Student Center at Georgia Southern, working for a better, more diverse tomorrow. Here I am, a Clinical Mental Health Counseling student striving to heal those who have felt oppression by one thing or another. Here I am, a woman of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, endeavoring to manifest his dreams in my global community through public service.
This holiday should be more than just a day off of school, more than just a day out of the classroom, and more than just a day to neglect schoolwork or to catch up on it. It should be a day that we focus on becoming a more equitable society. Having a black president did not conclude his dream, and it definitely should not plateau it. We as a student body that prides itself on diversity and acceptance must work for those who come after us at this institution. We must ensure that, as global citizens, Dr. King’s dream remains a reality.