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Inspiration Report

Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a U.S. federal holiday in honor of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years later, the first Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on the third Monday of January.

Today, many people spend Martin Luther King Day performing acts of service in their communities. The day is technically a national day of service according to the 1994 King Holiday and Service Act. This act made the third Monday in January the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. It is to be a “day on, not a day off.” Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans take those words to heart and make it a point to help others. People tutor or mentor children, paint schools or senior centers, deliver meals, build homes, donate blood or volunteer at homeless shelters in their local communities. Many of these projects continue on past Martin Luther King Day and assist the people of a community all year.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is best known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement and his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. This famous speech was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Monument, but it actually debuted in a North Carolina gymnasium. In 1962, King spoke for nearly an hour to the 1,800 people who crammed inside a gymnasium in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was here that King first said the famous words “I have a dream.”

This moment in history was all but forgotten until a North Carolina State English professor discovered that King once spoke in Rocky Mount and that his speech had been recorded. The tape was damaged, but King’s first “I Have a Dream” speech was successfully restored. The restored speech included all three of King’s most iconic endings: “Let freedom ring,” “How long, not long” and “I have a dream.” Hundreds of people have expressed interest in listening to this early speech, and a partial recording is available online.

While many people will undoubtedly listen to Martin Luther King, Jr’s speeches today, thousands more will join in marches in honor of the Civil Rights hero. It is, perhaps, those who spend the day quietly serving others that best honor King today. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr once famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” How will you spend America’s 32nd Martin Luther King Day?

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