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Friday, January 18, 2013

In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

MLK Jr. Day marks the birthday of Rev . Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is January 15th. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986. Did you know musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980 to help make Mr. King's birthday a federal holiday? He also hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981.

There are even alternate names for this holiday, in Utah its known as "Human Rights Day" until 2000 then they changed it back to its original name. In Virginia it was known as "Lee-Jackson-King Day". Mississippi still shares this celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on the third Monday of January and Robert E. Lee's birthday January 19. Arizona the day is called "Martin Luther King, Jr./Civil Rights Day" while in New Hampshire its official name is "Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Right Day".

There is one place outside the US where MLK Jr. Day is observed with equal importance is in the Japanese city of Hiroshima where the Mayor holds a special banquet at his office as an act of unifying his city's call for peace with King's message of human rights. Toronto, Canada is another city that has officially recognized this holiday although all government services and businesses remain open. In 1984 Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff conducted the first Israeli Presidential ceremony in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day which was held in his home in Jerusalem. Israel had a national forest in honor of Dr. King.

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