The Baker Orange

Baker to honor Martin Luther King Day

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

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In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a holiday into law to honor the civil rights movement and the chief spokesman for its nonviolent activism. Martin Luther King Day is celebrated annually and was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000.

After King’s assassination in 1968, there was a proposal to make King’s birthday a national holiday. At first, the bill was denied for political and financial reasons. But with help from Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” and a Rally for Peace campaign, 6 million signatures, “the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history,” sealed the deal. It has been a recognized holiday ever since.

“(Martin Luther King Day is) an appreciation for King as a national hero and (an acknowledgement) that there is still work to do in the area of human equality,” University Minister Ira DeSpain said.

Baker observes the holiday in a few different ways. The chapel will hold a service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and in appreciation for him as, what DeSpain calls, “a national hero” at 11 a.m. on Jan. 30 in the Osborne Chapel.

“It’s held as a worship service because, at its base, the civil rights movement was a religious movement headed by Christian ministers like King,” DeSpain said. “He was following his religious convictions as a leader.”

A Kansas City native, Reverend Vernon Percy Howard Jr., will speak at the service.

The Office of Student Life is hosting a trip to Vintage Park, the senior living center in Baldwin City. Volunteers will play bingo with the residents and deliver care packages. Interested students can meet at 2 p.m. on Jan. 20, at the center.

“I think Martin Luther King’s message was about caring for your neighbors regardless of their backgrounds or who they are,” Laura Jacob, graduate assistant for student life, said. “This is our way of doing that. We are reaching out to this population and group of people at Vintage Park that we haven’t connected with in a while.”

Whether they stay in or lend a hand, Jacob hopes that all students think about MLK Day and what it means. She knows it’s difficult for college students to find time to volunteer, but on a day where they have no classes or work, she hopes they give what they can.

“Volunteering is good for yourself — it helps you grow, it helps you feel good and it helps you feel like you’re making a difference,” Jacob said. “It’s (student life’s) job to help students make connections with their community, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

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