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Remembering the Man Behind MLK Day

January 23, 1994

*

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he's gone? He freed lotta people, but the good, they die young Abraham, Martin and John

I was reminded of this song, by Dion, on the day that my family marked as a holiday acknowledging the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Recently, I respectfully spoke with my students about the contributions of this great American. As is usually the case when I share something that is particularly pertinent or meaningful to my students, several stopped by to thank me for sharing and reminding them about the struggles that people often go through to bring about change. It's about remembering!

Imagine my disappointment when reading the article "Many Cities, Firms Ignore King Holiday," (Jan. 17). Nice to know that trash was being picked up--wasn't Dr. King in Memphis to help garbage collectors? It was nice to see that the city of Mission Viejo, which now celebrates MLK Day, recognized that they were "making a statement, whether we (wanted) to or not, by not declaring it a holiday," according to council member Robert D. Breton. The cities of Garden Grove and Costa Mesa seem to be more concerned with their role as stewards of tax money rather than their role as leaders in civics and citizenship. (A Mission Viejo man) summed it up when he stated that Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is "still seen or perceived as a second-class or 'black' holiday, and that city and business leaders are missing his message."

Failure to recognize this day as a holiday just makes it ordinary. Certainly, Dr. King's message and life were anything but ordinary and deserve better treatment.

We celebrated Martin Luther King Day by going to the movies, where we were treated to the extraordinary story of Oskar Schindler, as told in "Schindler's List." This powerful drama described the horrors of the Jews during World War II and the heroic efforts of one man to save hundreds of Jews.

Near the end of the movie, Schindler is given a ring by the people he has saved. On it, inscribed in Hebrew, it says, "Whoever saves a life, saves the world."

The depth of humanity displayed by Oskar Schindler and the love that Martin Luther King provided knitted the day together perfectly. The day was certainly one for remembering . For me in the classroom, or for anyone else, it's about remembering--and remembering happens best when you make a special holiday to remember the contributions of one now departed.

RICHARD BELLANTE

Monarch Beach

* I was astonished to see that Yorba Linda does not observe Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday, but instead honors the birthday of Richard Nixon.

King was one of the giants of our time; Nixon is a pipsqueak who rose to power by slandering good people.

It's a good thing we all know there is no racism in Orange County. Otherwise, we might think color (would) be an explanation for the city's action.

PETER A. ALIX SR.

Yorba Linda

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