Students Speak: What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you?

With MLK Day fast approaching, Focus challenged the student body to share their feelings on the true meaning of occasion, as well as whether they believe that Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday would be as widely recognized as it is today if it was not observed as a national holiday.

After significant struggle, the federal holiday was officially signed into creation in 1983. Eleven years later, Congress further emphasized MLK Day by labeling it a national day of service—a call to help solve today’s biggest issues.

Students admire Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model. After all, he embodied the potent value of silent courage and revolutionized the concept of civil disobedience.

However, some students, such as fourth-year BME James Lee, note that the meaning of the holiday may have faded.

“Being from a different background, Martin Luther King Jr.’s actions were courageous and evoke respect from me as he risked his life for change. People today look at it as more of a day off and if it were not a national holiday I believe it would be overshadowed; I probably would not recognize it,” Lee said.

Lee brought up an interesting point. If the day was not set aside as a national holiday, could it really be ignored in the midst of an ocean of social media and news coverage?

Siri Yellamraju, a fourth-year BA major, claims the day would certainly still be significant.

“I think I would still recognize it as I get CNN news updates on my phone, or I would be bound to see it on Reddit or elsewhere,” Yellamraju said.

Others believe that the symbolic importance of MLK Day would be diminished if it was not a national holiday.

“I think the day would be recognized but not as widely celebrated,” said fourth-year BA major Mason Elledge.

In other words, MLK Day’s mark as a day of service would be obsolete. Essentially, a day of respect would remain.

Respect, however, can take different forms. Respect is not only a solemn acknowledgement, but a commitment for continual progress which we make with respect to Dr. King’s memory.

“I consider peace and continuous change when the holiday comes. Especially since we have the first African-American president in office,” said Kajene Murugathasan, a fourth-year PSYCH major.

MLK Day is certainly recognized more in some parts of the country than others. Suyoung Jang, a second-year EE, recognizes this because of his own experiences.

“I grew up in Birmingham, so there were lots of assemblies and field trips that revolved around the civil rights movement. Even our school Social Studies curriculum focused heavily around Dr. King and his strive for change,” said Jang.

Students can honor Martin Luther King Jr. though Tech’s third annual MLK Day of Service, “A Day On, Not a Day Off.” Students will divide up into teams and participate in service various service projects in the metro Atlanta area. 250 spots were initially available but projects are filling up quickly.

Events celebrating Dr. King will continue throughout the week. The Student Government Association will hold a diversity symposium on Tuesday, Jan. 22, where some of today’s most pressing issues will be discussed.

Celebrate the holiday by helping to perpetuate the values that Dr. King worked so hard to instill.