HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Every year, Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. It was in 1983, during the Reagan administration, that the holiday was established. Congress, in 1994, designated this day as a national day of service. Dr. King is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and is also the only non-president to be memorialized on the Great Mall in Washington D.C.
The holiday is a celebration of the life and legacy of a champion for racial justice and equality. Dr. King advocated for freedom using the power of words, protests, grassroots organization and civil disobedience. He stood in contrast to others who advocated for freedom by any means.
In his 13 years of leadership, he led numerous campaigns against racial injustice, poverty and international conflict. One of his most important achievements is the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, which after 381 days of nearly universal participation by the African American community, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional. In 1963, he was a major force behind the March on Washington and it was there that he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This event cemented his status as a leader and helped to inspire the nation to act on civil rights. At 35 he became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Partly in response to the March on Washington, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, which essentially eliminated legalized racial segregation. This was followed by the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that removed the remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans. Tragically, in 1968, Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Team Hill will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a luncheon on Jan. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Landing. Registration will be done via an e-invitation distributed by the base protocol office.
The importance of this holiday is as a reminder to consider how each of us can support small changes that can make a difference. During his life, Dr. King encouraged all to pursue the potential of America as a nation of equality and helping others to realize their potential. His notion of ‘The Beloved Community’ was a call for all people to apply principles of nonviolence to make America a better place to live
The guest speaker for this year’s luncheon is Dr. Wazir Suni Jefferson, a native New Yorker from Poughkeepsie, New York. Currently, he is a Student Success Advocate with the Office of Undergraduate Studies in the Student Success and Empowerment Initiative (SSEI) and Special Assistant to the Associate Vice President for Equity and Diversity at the University of Utah. Prior to his arrival back to Utah, he served as Co-Director of Programming and Outreach Initiatives at Skidmore College. He has facilitated, taught, offered train-the-trainer exercises, and consulted with a number of institutions of higher education, non-profits, celebrities, and businesses toward diversity awareness and inclusion training.
With his ability to facilitate, teach, and train on team building and inclusion Dr. Jefferson is in the spirit of Dr. King’s Beloved Community.