October 19, 1983, the Senate voted to make the third Monday in
January a national holiday to commemorate the birth of Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. President
Reagan signed the bill into law on November 2, and paid warm tribute
to Dr. King, saying his words and deeds had stirred our nation to
the very depths of its soul.
In 1986, the first official year of the holiday, a weeklong
schedule of concerts, church services, school activities and parades
took place in Atlanta, Washington, New York and other cities across
the country. However, while federal offices were closed, fewer than 20%
of the nations private employers closed for the day, and in
following years state governments would continue to argue the merits
of a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It
wasnt until 1999 that all
50 states observed the holiday, with
Arizona (1992) and New Hampshire
(1999) being the last to join in the observance.
President Reagan signs the Martin
Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill into law, November 2, 1983
Rose Garden-The White House. (White House Photo)
On August 23, 1994, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal
Holiday and Service Act was signed into law, identifying the
national holiday as a day of community service, interracial
cooperation and peace.
Together, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday
Commission and Corporation for National Service Commission, under
the Act, developed the Community Service Initiative to bring
the goals and the messages of Dr. King directly to all communities.
In 1995, over 30,000 people reported on their community-based
programs. Based on this
tremendous response, a more diverse Community Service initiative was
planned for 1996. Clearly
the concept of service is an idea most Americans endorsed.
Shortly thereafter, a series of public service announcements
were produced and distributed across the country.
Interest came from traditional service organizations and from
over 2,000 federal, state and local governments and private
businesses were particularly strong advocates, embracing the service
concept and honoring Dr. King by providing many opportunities for
their employees to get involved.
In the second year of the initiative, over one million
volunteers participated in service projects across the nation.
The final results showed that approximately three million
hours of volunteer service benefited 2.5 million Americans.
Dr. Kings humanistic philosophy, an individual has not
yet started living until he can rise above narrow confines of his
individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,
continues to inspire people from around the country to share a
spirit of goodwill and develop community projects benefiting those
less fortunate. Reports
of these projects keep coming, identifying the creativity, diversity
and generosity of an entire nation.
In 1996, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday expired
and remanded its programs and activities to The King Center
in Atlanta. Each state and U.S. Territory
was asked to officially appoint two representatives or delegates to
The King center's "National Holiday
Advisory Committee (NHAC)."
The members of the NHAC committee bring strong knowledge,
history and experience in building and maintaining the National King
Holiday. They advise on the development of program models and
facilitate the creation of a strong King Holiday network.
Through the continuous efforts of more
than sixty NYS
Agency King Liaisons, corporate and community partners, the Observance has
evolved into a truly meaningful and educational activity. It
serves as a
model for numerous
states across the country for its proven success in capturing Dr. Kings commitment
toward community service, interracial cooperation and anti-violence
initiatives. Every year, the State Agency
King Liaison Committee's tireless dedication and planning efforts have
resulted in several awards and recognitions for the State's Annual