by Jane Briggs-Bunting
Today is a national holiday to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the famed civil rights leader.
Government buildings are closed, the post office is closed, most K-12 schools are closed and many universities cancel classes for the day.
The idea behind the holiday was so people could focus on the good works of Dr. King.
Years ago, when I was a faculty member at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, students had protested the fact that campus remained open and classes, except for two hours midday, met, as usual. Top level administrators responding to student pressure decided to change the calendar and cancel classes. The only one objecting was then-Vice President Wilma Ray Bledsoe, the only African American (and, I believe, woman) on the cabinet at that time.
Wilma Ray objected because she believed students on campus would turn the day off into a three day weekend rather than join the campus in marches and other ceremonies of remembrances and study of the life of Dr. King.
She was right. MLK Day for most college and K-12 students now is just that – a three day holiday from studies. The local ski resorts, thankfully covered in the white stuff now, are having their best day of the season so far. The malls are busier, too. Many other students are sleeping in today or enjoying the pleasure of being home.
There are marches on campuses, the media has covered the holiday, but I have to wonder.
A mother I know asked her 12 year-old son who Dr. King was. He had no idea. He was miffed because his school wasn’t closed today. His cousins had the day off. None of them knew who Dr. King was either.