Editorial: Honoring King in spirit, service

Now more  than 50 years after first ringing out across the National Mall in Washington, D.C., who can hear these words — “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” — and not be moved?

Although making the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday was controversial and overdue, the holiday in one sense has become ordinary. Instead of being celebrated on King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15, it falls on the Monday closest to that date, so we Americans get what those who decide such things figure is much more important than an exercise in historical remembrance or a call to idealism — a three-day weekend.

It is appropriate to remember King for his vital role in ending one of the America’s most shameful features of life that persisted far too long — legally imposed segregation, discrimination and denial of equal rights based on what should be an irrelevant factor, the color of one’s skin. Although we remain far short of perfection in racial matters, we have come so far since King was killed in 1968 that it may be difficult to remember — and for younger Americans to know at all — just how pervasive and hateful racial discrimination was not so long ago.

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