Is It or Isn’t It?

3pm Friday:
“Hey, where is everybody? Oh, I forgot, the office closed early for the holiday.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January, close to the civil rights leader’s birthday. It was first observed as a federal holiday in 1986, a state holiday in many states over some time and observed by all states by 2002.

3:30pm Friday:
“See you Tuesday.”
“Tuesday? Don’t you mean Monday?”
“No, Monday is a holiday. See you Tuesday.”

But many businesses did not observe it as a ‘close the office’ holiday but rather as a floating holiday or an optional holiday for employees, along the lines of Veteran’s Day. I don’t remember when my company began to close the office for this day, but it doesn’t seem that long ago. I do know it’ll be closed this year and our offices were closed early today in honor of the three-day weekend.

So, do you think it is a holiday or not? And should it be? Or not?

Anyone alive in the first half of the boomer era knew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a highly visible leader in the civil rights movement right at the beginning of the TV news era and in the middle of a volatile time in American history. He was a preacher and preached a non-violent but persistent approach to gaining rights for all Americans not just the white ones. He was gunned down on April 4, 1968 and seven days later President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination relating to the sale and financing of housing. African-Americans were the part of the U.S. population most affected by this and similar legislation but these law and the rights associated with them were and are for all Americans.

Early on, I remember many white people saying MLK Day was mostly an observance for black people. That is kind of a knee-jerk reaction and I might very well have felt that way at one time too. But this man, more than any before or since, was a true leader and inspiration, equal in his own way to other American historical figures for whom we celebrate with holidays. In my opinion, this should be a holiday, as much for most businesses as it is for government offices and schools.

With that said, however, I’ll mention that I am going into work on Monday. I didn’t really sink in till today that this truly is a holiday weekend and I could have planned better but I am behind on many projects and need a quiet day to catch up. I work in a 24/7 industry so I don’t take all the holidays, by the way; I usually work on President’s Day and Veterans Day but I take the more traditional holidays.

Next year, however, I think I will take King Day off and participate in a Day of Service activity of some kind. For one thing, he was around in my lifetime. For another, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" That seems to me to be a great way to honor an American leader and hero … much better than shopping the King Day sales.