Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy MLK Jr. Day!

Here in Anne Arundel County, we're in those funky mid-January days where the kids get a seemingly random series of 2-hour early dismissals and full days off - just when we've started to settle back into something of a routine following the holidays. Of course, it's not random at all for the school system. The Broadneck High students take their final exams for the semester this week, and teachers throughout Anne Arundel County use the time off for a combination of closing out the semester and professional development. The upcoming 4-day weekend is a good one to take advantage of some local sightseeing or maybe a skiing daytrip, particularly Tuesday the 25th since neighboring counties don't have that day off, and crowds will be down.

The day off today, however, is not lumped in with the county's administrative days off. It marks our national tribute to the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to our national consciousness and the civil rights movement. It is now a federal holiday that is recognized by all 50 states. I won't name names, but a couple of states dragged their feet until they were shamed into getting on board. Thankfully, I think our country as a whole is past the days of questioning the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on our society. The vast majority of us embrace the day as one to reflect on the progress that has been made with respect to race relations in America and to consider the work that still needs to be done.

Since 1994, the holiday has also become associated with volunteerism. President Clinton signed the bill into law that made MLK Day a National Day of Service. It's something that's on all our minds at the start of a new year, and the Martin Luther King Day of Service gives us an opportunity to act on it. If you're looking for some inspiration or a way to get started, take a look at these websites that provide local volunteer opportunities and organizations that are always looking for able hands:

  • - this site allows you to enter your zip code to get a listing of local organizations in need of volunteers.
  • Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County - this site is our local Anne Arundel County volunteer information center. It lists MANY terrific ways to volunteer in the county along with age requirements in case you are looking for opportunities for your kids.
  • Volunteer Match - this one has an option to search for virtual volunteer opportunities - be altruistic in your pajamas!
  • - here, you can sign up for monthly text message alerts about volunteer opportunities.

If you don't have luck searching with 21409, try 21401. Not everyone got the memo about our zip code change. There is no end to the need, but it takes a little momentum to get out there and help. Many of you have ready access to charitable work through your churches. For the rest of us, we're not off the hook just because we skip the weekly sermon. It's incumbent upon all of us to look outside ourselves in some way that is helpful to our community. We're not always in places in our lives where that's easy or even possible, but when we are, we should. It's the best way to honor those like Dr. King who did/do the heavy lifting.

This August, on the anniversary of the March on Washington, the long awaited memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. will be unveiled on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin. All 1600 metric tons of the statue are there now under a shroud and scaffolding getting their final touches and awaiting the accompanying landscaping that will go in after the thaw. Here is an artist's rendition of how it will look when it's done:

This picture doesn't come close to doing it justice. For a better look at the plans and construction, go to It's going to be grand. Dr. King's form emerges from a tremendous block of stone called the "Stone of Hope" which has broken free from the "Mountain of Despair", taken from his famous quote, "With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." I don't think I'll fight the crowds in August to get a first look, but maybe we will take advantage of our "random" days off in January next year to make a pilgrimage to the new memorial. Or better yet, wait a couple of months for the cherry blossoms to do their thing (this year's blooms are not that far away!!!)

Here are a few of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes. I posted them a year ago on my earliest attempt at a blog. They are still gems, and get more apropos by the day:
  • "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
  • "A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan."
  • "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."
  • "Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek."
  • "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
  • "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."
  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary."
  • "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
  • "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
  • "The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt."
Have a great day off everyone! Don't forget the 2-hour early dismissals the rest of this week and the days off next week. Fingers crossed that the winter weather in the forecast tonight doesn't add on a 2-hour late start tomorrow!

--- Cape Blogger

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