Martin Luther King Day


Andrew Marvin

From left to right: Kavya Borra ’20, Zion Henriques ’20, and Daniel Funderbirk ’20 preforming “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West in MLK day chapel.

Uma Mani '20, Staff Writer

Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday that most Americans have been accustomed to observe every year on the third Monday of January. This holiday is typically celebrated by the public as a day off with the closing of most schools and businesses.  However, Peddie has notably different traditions in its celebration of the holiday. For many years, classes have proceeded as usual on Martin Luther King Day, with visiting speakers coming to lecture during an extended Chapel period. Though I personally feel that the way Peddie celebrates the holiday is ideal, some new Peddie students are certainly confused, if not shocked, as to why classes continue to be held on this public holiday. To explain, we must look back to the roots of the day and its original purpose.

Martin Luther King was an important civil rights activist and a key figure in the movement to end racial segregation in the United States.  His achievement for the Civil Rights Movement as an advocate of nonviolent protest fueled the campaign for the institution of a federal holiday in his honor in 1968.  The creation of the holiday was initially pushed for by labor unions and followed up by public rallies and a petition with 6 million signatures. Finally signed into law fifteen years later by President Ronald Reagan, the holiday wasn’t officially observed in all fifty states until 2000.  

Over the years, the holiday has come to be more and more easily dismissed and the significance behind its creation has faded from the minds of Americans.  Now, the purpose of the holiday is often overshadowed by people’s perception of it as ‘just another day off.’ I believe that the purpose of the holiday is not only to celebrate Dr. King’s life and achievements, but to promote nonviolent means of spreading equality and understanding.  

Peddie’s active celebration of the holiday through the special Martin Luther King Day chapel service, though maybe not as thorough as some feel it should be, shows that Peddie is unwilling to fall into complacency and apathy which can so easily form around holidays of this kind.  “I think the best thing we can do as a school to promote the message of Dr. King is active remembrance which the chapel on Monday did pretty well,” remarked Chris Liang ’20. Yulia Gu ’21 added, “The way the chapel was structured made it memorable and informative to appeal to high schoolers without having it feel too preachy.”

I agree with most Peddie students in saying that Monday’s chapel service was effective in staying true to the purpose of the holiday while leaving the students with lessons from a wide variety of perspectives to carry throughout the day.  However we choose to celebrate it, Martin Luther King Day should continue to be observed and its lessons of acceptance and understanding applied in any way we can.