President’s Proclamation for MLK Day

mlkTHE WHITE HOUSE  Office of the Press Secretary

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged our Nation to recognize that our individual liberty relies upon our common equality.  In communities marred by division and injustice, the movement he built from the ground up forced open doors to negotiation.  The strength of his leadership was matched only by the power of his words, which still call on us to perfect those sacred ideals enshrined in our founding documents.

“We have an opportunity to make America a better Nation,” Dr. King said on the eve of his death.  “I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”  Though we have made great strides since the turbulent era of Dr. King’s movement, his work and our journey remain unfinished.  Only when our children are free to pursue their full measure of success — unhindered by the color of their skin, their gender, the faith in their heart, the people they love, or the fortune of their birth — will we have reached our destination.

Today, we are closer to fulfilling America’s promise of economic and social justice because we stand on the shoulders of giants like Dr. King, yet our future progress will depend on how we prepare our next generation of leaders.  We must fortify their ladders of opportunity by correcting social injustice, breaking the cycle of poverty in struggling communities, and reinvesting in our schools.  Education can unlock a child’s potential and remains our strongest weapon against injustice and inequality.

Recognizing that our Nation has yet to reach Dr. King’s promised land is not an admission of defeat, but a call to action.  In these challenging times, too many Americans face limited opportunities, but our capacity to support each other remains limitless.  Today, let us ask ourselves what Dr. King believed to be life’s most urgent and persistent question: “What are you doing for others?”  Visit to find Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service projects across our country.

Dr. King devoted his life to serving others, and his message transcends national borders.  The devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the urgent need for humanitarian support, reminds us that our service and generosity of spirit must also extend beyond our immediate communities.  As our Government continues to bring our resources to bear on the international emergency in Haiti, I ask all Americans who want to contribute to this effort to visit

By lifting up our brothers and sisters through dedication and service — both at home and around the world — we honor Dr. King’s memory and reaffirm our common humanity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2010, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday.  I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs in honor of Dr. King’s life and lasting legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.



3 Responses to “President’s Proclamation for MLK Day”

  1. Donna Atkins

    The following magnificent poem by English poet John Donne (1572-1631) expresses the theme of our all being connected to one another:

    Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it
    tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as
    that they who are about me and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me,
    and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions;
    all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action
    concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head
    too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a
    man, that action concerns me. All mankind is of one author and is one volume;
    when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into
    a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several
    translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war,
    some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind
    up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie
    open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon
    the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all;
    but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.
    There was a contention as far as a suit (in which piety and dignity, religion
    and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to
    prayers first in the morning; and it was determined that they should ring first
    that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls
    for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in
    that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The
    bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet
    from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who
    casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a
    comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any
    occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of
    himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a
    piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of
    thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am
    involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    it tolls for thee. . . .
    from Meditation 17
    by John Donne

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