MLK Day Proclamation – The Last One?
Ever since President Ronald Reagan‘s administration, the United States has recognized Civil Rights icon and leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on the third Monday of January.
Each year, whoever is the sitting president issues a declaration for that particular year that includes a message about King, his legacy and how he wishes the day be celebrated by the citizenry of the country.
The incoming PEOTUS (President Elect of the United States) Donald J. Trump was scheduled to visit the National African American History Museum on King’s birthday but canceled due to scheduling conflicts, or in other words, “he was too busy.” It comes a day after he asserted that King comrade John Lewis was “all talk” and no action. Talk about timing.
With that, it is uncertain whether we can even expect an official acknowledment next year. So, as a service, I’m sharing President Obama’s Proclamation; George W. Bush‘s 2002 Proclamation and Ronald Reagan’s.
First the last one issued this past Friday:
When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shared his dream with the world atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he gave mighty voice to our founding ideals. Few could have imagined that nearly half a century later, his iconic profile would forever be memorialized in stone, standing tall and gazing outward, not far from where he stirred our collective conscience to action. In summoning a generation to recognize the universal threat of injustice anywhere, Dr. King’s example has proven that those who love their country can change it.
A foot soldier for justice and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King lifted the quiet hopes of our Nation with the powers of his voice and pen. Whether behind his pulpit in Montgomery, at a podium on the National Mall, or from his jail cell in Birmingham, he beckoned us toward justice through non-violent resistance and oratory skill. Dr. King fought not merely for the absence of oppression but for the presence of opportunity. His soaring rhetoric impelled others to take up his cause, and with struggle and discipline, persistence and faith, those who joined him on his journey began to march. America was watching, and so they kept marching; America was listening, and so they kept sounding the call for justice. Because they kept moving forward with unwavering resistance, they changed not only laws but also hearts and minds. And as change rippled across the land, it began to strengthen over time, building on the progress realized on buses, in schools, and at lunch counters so that eventually, it would reverberate in the halls of government and be felt in the lives of people across our country.
Those who dismiss the magnitude of the progress that has been made dishonor the courage of all who marched and struggled to bring about this change — and those who suggest that the great task of extending our Nation’s promise to every individual is somehow complete neglect the sacrifices that made it possible. Dr. King taught us that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Although we do not face the same challenges that spurred the Civil Rights Movement, the fierce urgency of now — and the need for persistence, determination, and constant vigilance — is still required for us to meet the complex demands and defeat the injustices of our time. With the same iron will and hope in our hearts, it is our duty to secure 2 economic opportunity, access to education, and equal treatment under the law for all. The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it only bends because of the strength and sacrifice of those who reject complacency and drive us forward.
As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, we celebrate a man and a movement that transformed our country, and we remember that our freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of others. Given the causes he championed — from civil rights and international peace to job creation and economic justice — it is right that today we honor his work by serving others. Now more than ever, we must heed his teachings by embracing our convictions. We must live our values, strive for righteousness, and bring goodness to others. And at a time when our politics are so sharply polarized and people are losing faith in our institutions, we must meet his call to stand in another person’s shoes and see through their eyes. We must work to understand the pain of others, and we must assume the best in each other. Dr. King’s life reminds us that unconditional love will have the final word — and that only love can drive out hate.
Only by drawing on the lessons of our past can we ensure the flame of justice continues to shine. By standing up for what we know to be right and speaking uncomfortable truths, we can align our reality closer with the ideal enshrined in our founding documents that all people are created equal. In remembering Dr. King, we also remember that change has always relied on the willingness of our people to keep marching forward. If we do, there is no mountaintop or promised land we cannot reach.,
NOW THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2017, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday. I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service projects in honor of Dr. King and to visit www.MLKDay.gov to find Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service projects across our country.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.
President Bush in 2002
For too brief a time, our Nation was blessed by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a modern American hero whose leadership rallied people of all races to rise up against injustice.
His commitment to stand peacefully for the conviction that all men are created equal brought about changes in the laws of our Nation, and he paid the ultimate price for the courage he demonstrated in attempting to ensure that all men and women were treated equally in the eyes of the law and by their fellow citizens.
It is with a great sense of pride and gratitude that we celebrate this 17th national holiday in honor of Dr. King’s life and work. Let us take this oppor-tunity to recall his vision and renew his call for equal justice for all.
We enter this new year and this annual celebration with a revived national spirit. The events of September 11, 2001, have drawn us closer as a Nation and increased our resolve to protect the life and liberty we cherish.
And while our patriotism and neighborly affections run high, these circumstances have given us renewed purpose in rededicating ourselves to Dr. King’s “dream.”
As he said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963: “I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character.”
Dr. King’s words were not just a call to change our laws, but they also served as a challenge to all Americans to change their hearts by refusing to judge people by their skin color or their national origin, by their race or their religion.
For while we have made progress, there is much work to be done, both at home and abroad.
In the face of massive injustice, Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to nonviolent means of bringing the people of our Nation together provided a foundation for healing and trust. That trust brought us through our recent tragedy as we reached out to each other without regard to race or religion.
Dr. King spent his life working for those who held the uncelebrated jobs in our communities — people who simply performed their work with dignity and pride.
The words from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of 1964, spoken about the workers in the freedom movement, still ring true for those men and women who unselfishly attempted to rescue innocent persons in the World Trade Center buildings and at the Pentagon.
Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who’s Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live — men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization — because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
We are so thankful for those “humble children of God,” and we are thankful for the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His abiding faith in America has helped us become a fairer and more colorblind society.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Monday, January 21, 2002, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday.
I encourage Americans to observe this day with appropriate community programs, gatherings, and civic activities that honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. King.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-sixth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
President Reagan, On signing into law the Bill proclaiming the day on November 3, 1983:
The President. Mrs. King, members of the King family, distinguished Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, I’m very pleased to welcome you to the White House, the home that belongs to all of us, the American people.
When I was thinking of the contributions to our country of the man that we’re honoring today, a passage attributed to the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier comes to mind. “Each crisis brings its word and deed.” In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King was born in 1929 in an America where, because of the color of their skin, nearly 1 in 10 lived lives that were separate and unequal. Most black Americans were taught in segregated schools. Across the country, too many could find only poor jobs, toiling for low wages. They were refused entry into hotels and restaurants, made to use separate facilities. In a nation that proclaimed liberty and justice for all, too many black Americans were living with neither.
In one city, a rule required all blacks to sit in the rear of public buses. But in 1955, when a brave woman named Rosa Parks was told to move to the back of the bus, she said, “No.” A young minister in a local Baptist church, Martin Luther King, then organized a boycott of the bus company—a boycott that stunned the country. Within 6 months the courts had ruled the segregation of public transportation unconstitutional.
Dr. King had awakened something strong and true, a sense that true justice must be colorblind, and that among white and black Americans, as he put it, “Their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom; we cannot walk alone.”
In the years after the bus boycott, Dr. King made equality of rights his life’s work. Across the country, he organized boycotts, rallies, and marches. Often he was beaten, imprisoned, but he never stopped teaching nonviolence. “Work with the faith”, he told his followers, “that unearned suffering is redemptive.” In 1964 Dr. King became the youngest man in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. King’s work brought him to this city often. And in one sweltering August day in 1963, he addressed a quarter of a million people at the Lincoln Memorial. If American history grows from two centuries to twenty, his words that day will never be forgotten. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
In 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down by a brutal assassin, his life cut short at the age of 39. But those 39 short years had changed America forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had guaranteed all Americans equal use of public accommodations, equal access to programs financed by Federal funds, and the right to compete for employment on the sole basis of individual merit. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had made certain that from then on black Americans would get to vote. But most important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.
And since Dr. King’s death, his father, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and his wife, Coretta King, have eloquently and forcefully carried on his work. Also his family have joined in that cause.
Now our nation has decided to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. We’ve made historic strides since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. As a democratic people, we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it. And we should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all.
But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'”
Thank you, God bless you, and I will sign it.
Mrs. King. Thank you, Mr. President, Vice President Bush, Majority Leader Baker and the distinguished congressional and senatorial delegations, and other representatives who’ve gathered here, and friends.
All right-thinking people, all right-thinking Americans are joined in spirit with us this day as the highest recognition which this nation gives is bestowed upon Martin Luther King, Jr., one who also was the recipient of the highest recognition which the world bestows, the Nobel Peace Prize.
In his own life’s example, he symbolized what was right about America, what was noblest and best, what human beings have pursued since the beginning of history. He loved unconditionally. He was in constant pursuit of truth, and when he discovered it, he embraced it. His nonviolent campaigns brought about redemption, reconciliation, and justice. He taught us that only peaceful means can bring about peaceful ends, that our goal was to create the love community.
America is a more democratic nation, a more just nation, a more peaceful nation because Martin Luther King, Jr., became her preeminent nonviolent commander.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and his spirit live within all of us. Thank God for the blessing of his life and his leadership and his commitment. What manner of man was this? May we make ourselves worthy to carry on his dream and create the love community. Thank you.