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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 21, 2020 03:14 PM
From: Representative Stephen Kinsey
To: All House members
Subject: Require all schools in the Commonwealth to close on the 3rd Monday in January, in recognition of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As many of you may know, some school districts have opted to use Martin Luther King Day, the 3rd Monday in January, as a teachers’ in-service day or school make-up day rather than celebrate it as a national holiday. Consequently, in the near future, I will re-introduce a legislative proposal that would require all schools in the Commonwealth to close in recognition of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to American life. This proposal was previously introduced as House Bill 486 of 2017.

The campaign for a formal, national observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day began immediately after his assassination on April 4, 1968. At that time, those who opposed making MLK Day a national holiday maintained that it would be unprecedented and impossible, too costly, and too radical. Nevertheless, through a 15-year long hard-fought commitment of many people, including 6 million signatures, and the administrations of 5 U.S. Presidents (Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan), legislation making Dr. Martin Luther King Day a national holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in November 1983. MLK Day was first observed as a national holiday on January 20, 1986.

Since its inception, the decision whether or not to close school on MLK Day has been faced by many school districts in this Commonwealth and nationwide. However, MLK Day is not just another holiday. I believe that with closing schools we keep in mind the unique and special purpose of celebrating MLK Day, which was best expressed by his wife, Coretta Scott King, who wrote:

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example – the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.

We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yes, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans. The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also led a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.

Dr. King spoke often about the importance of education. As he once wrote, “we must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Accordingly, I thank you in advance for joining me as a sponsor of this most important legislative proposal.

Introduced as HB2265