Honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jew and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the word of that old Negro spiritual ‘Free at Last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last.’

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Aug. 28, 1963

Next week, at noon on Jan. 20, 2009, the first African-American will take the oath of office as President of the United States of America.

That historic event happens one day after the nation celebrates the life of one of the people responsible for making it possible.

Eighty years ago, on Jan. 15, 1929, the son of Rev. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Sr., was born into a nation divided by segregation and hatred. Less than four decades later, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he spoke from the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis - his life cut short by the very hatred he was preaching against.

While Dr. King’s life was a period in American history filled with hatred and bigotry, it was also a time when Dr. King and his followers fought violence with pacifism, hatred with love, and bigotry with the desire that we should all live together in equality.

January 15 had been observed as a public holiday for many years in 27 states and Washington, D.C. In 1986, following the passage of Public Law 98-144, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring the third Monday in January as a public holiday in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. — the only federal holiday commemorating an African-American.

On Jan. 19, Americans will celebrate the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In north Snohomish County, residents and hundreds of students, including many from Marysville and Arlington, celebrated the life of Dr. King on Jan. 13, in Everett, with a rally and march, followed by a speech by Herman Boone, whose inspiring story was the basis of the movie “Remember the Titans.”

For those who missed the Everett celebration, Myrlie Evers-Williams will be the featured speaker on Thursday, at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW. The free event runs from 7-8:30 p.m. Evers-Williams is a civil rights leader, author and the first woman to serve as chairperson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Those who wish to participate in the King Day of service - making the holiday a day on, not a day off - can go to www.usaservice.org and click on “Find an Event.” There are several service activities planned for Everett and many more planned for the Seattle area.

As we prepare to celebrate the inauguration of this nation’s first African-American president, we should also remember and celebrate those who made it possible.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board — Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank — e-mail forum@marysvilleglobe.com.

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