Coming up on Monday the 16th is Martin Luther King Day, a day off from school and work that honors the contributions that Dr. King made to the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. Even today, he is still regarded as one of the most influential people of the 20th century, and it is fitting that there is a holiday in his honor near his January 15th birthday.
Given Dr. King’s achievements, I think that MLK Day is a different holiday than most because it urges us not to take time for ourselves, but to give time to our community. Dr. King made incredible changes to this country, and I think the best way to really take advantage of the holiday and honor its underlying meaning is to go out into the community and help to make positive changes.
With that in mind, I’m really excited for MLK Day of Service taking place this Monday. The event, in which nine colleges and about 1200 people participate, is an exciting day-long event that includes a rally and a huge number of service projects designed to enrich the community. In years past, the service has happened at sites all around the greater Portland area, but this year, all of the service will take place at Roosevelt High School.
I think that MLK Day of Service is a great idea because it really captures the spirit of the Dr. King and the spirit of the holiday. Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” An event like this gives a large amount of people the opportunity to go out and do something for the communities around them. Many people can be paralyzed by the fact that it’s very difficult to make in impact in the world, but I think community service like this makes that sort of impact. It really all starts at the community level, and 1200 college students getting together to better a local high school and the surrounding neighborhoods is a part of that impact. MLK Day of Service is a national event, and if we have groups across the country making small impacts like those of us in Portland will be, then those impacts will compound, and we will have done a great deal for our country as a whole.
That’s why community service is important: being a part of something like this really helps us answer Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?” I hope you all get out and do something on MLK Day!
Josh Francis is a Community Engagement Coordinator in the Center for Career and Community Engagement at Lewis & Clark. He is a English and Hispanic Studies major set to graduate in May.