Happy Birthday, Dr. King

Thinking of you today reminds me of why I became a teacher, and thinking of tomorrow's historic inauguration of Barack Obama reminds me that (some) progress (even a little) is being made every day.

It's amazing to me that your day is still one of those sort-of holidays. Congress originally enacted the day as a day of service, but many companies don't recognize this day at all. Oh, and then there's Arizona -- the state that didn't want to recognize Dr. King. This day should be returned to its original dual purpose: to honor a man who gave of himself to change this country and to encourage all of us to do something too. Our President-elect has called for this spirit of volunteerism to be renewed today, and many can't participate because they work for companies that think their business is too important to take a break for a day.

Since my job at the moment is to care for my two babies, I can't be out painting a school or picking up trash at a park. I will spend some of today, however, working on the volunteer project I've had for many years now -- reading the writing of inmates at a state prison and (hopefully) encouraging them to enact progress and change in their own lives. What will you be doing?

We've opened our society to people of color and ensured that their civil rights are secure. This doesn't mean, though, that racism is a thing of the past. I'm sure Dr. King would acknowledge how much more work there is to do. Think of all the snide remarks you hear -- I'm still shocked at how common it is, actually. People who fancy themselves educated who still don't think of people who look different as their equals. I'm lucky I grew up with different values (better, I'd argue) that didn't allow that sort of prejudicial talk -- or, more importantly, think.

So what to do? Be the change you want to see. Go on now!