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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - January 16, 2012

I_Have_a_dreamOn 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

More than 40 years after his death, our nation has seen tremendous progress in the fight against the bigotry and hatred that Dr. King opposed with love, compassion, and understanding; but there is still a lot of work to be done in order for the dream of Dr. King to become a reality. In today's times of economic turmoil, America faces a bigger challenge than ever before.

President Obama has said that the challenges America faces are unprecedented, and that we need to build a new foundation for economic growth in America: "Economic recovery is as much about what you're doing in your communities as what we're doing in Washington - and it's going to take all of us, working together."

Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service in 1994 and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading the community service effort.

Dr. King's example continues to guide us in addressing our nation's most critical social and economic issues. Each of us can contribute to strengthening our own communities by serving in Dr. King's honor on MLK Day and everyday throughout the year.

MLK Day, a Day of Service

The MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is recognized as a national day of service - "a day on, not a day off." The MLK Day of Service is part of "United We Serve," the President's national call to service initiative.

On Jan. 16, 2012, you can locate a Project box to sign up for a volunteer opportunity in your area, or plan your own project. Just click on the link to the MLK day site to learn more.

President Obama's "Renew America Together" initiative, asks all Americans to make an ongoing commitment to serve their communities and their country. is an online tool to help Americans find ways to serve in their own community.

We can make a difference and help make the dream of Dr. King a reality and in the process renew our communities and country in this time of homelessness, economic uncertainty, and high unemployment. Let this Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday truly be a day on and not a day off by volunteering our services to make a difference in our communities.

About the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

MLK statusThe Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was constructed along the Tidal Basin at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial first opened to the public on Oct. 16, 2011 during an early morning dedication ceremony. The memorial celebrates the life and work of Dr. King by leading and honoring his national and international contributions to world peace through non-violent social change.

The official address of the monument is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W. The address commemorates the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. Dr. King's memorial is situated on a four-acre plot on the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin adjacent to the Roosevelt Memorial. The memorial is within the precinct of Washington, D.C.'s famous cherry blossom trees, a gift from Japan as a sign of peace. Each spring, visitors from across the nation and around the world flock to D.C. to witness the beauty of the two-week blooming period for the cherry blossoms, while being reminded of Dr. King's life and legacy towards equality for all.

The centerpiece for the memorial is based on a line from King's "I Have A Dream" speech: "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Standing at 30 feet tall, a relief of King named the "Stone of Hope" stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the "mountain of despair." Visitors walk through the Mountain of Despair on the way to the Stone of Hope. This symbolizes "moving through the struggle as Dr. King did during his life."

A 450 foot inscription wall includes excerpts from a number of King's sermons and speeches; the earliest from the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and the latest from his final sermon in 1968 at D.C.'s National Cathedral, just four days before his assassination.

There are 24 niches along the upper walkway to commemorate the contribution of the individuals who gave their lives in different ways to the civil rights movement- from Medgar Evers, to the four children who were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. Many of the niches are left open and incomplete to allow additional niches to be dedicated as new individuals are honored.

While the memorial is not the first in the U.S. capital to honor an African American, it is the first monument on or near the National Mall to honor an African American.