When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the March on Washington, he described a “fierce urgency of now.” More than 50 years later, his words have renewed meaning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of our nation’s most pressing challenges. It has opened our eyes wider to the inequity in our world, and at the same time it has also shown that in times of great need, we step up and help our neighbors. We are reminded that, in the face of challenging times, we are stronger when we help one another and march forward, together.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., devoted his life to creating a Beloved Community. He dedicated his efforts to advancing equality, social justice and opportunity for all, and challenged all of us to participate in the never-ending work of building a more perfect union. His teachings have continued to guide and inspire us in addressing challenges in our communities.
Coretta Scott King once famously said, “To me, the Beloved Community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflict exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness. In the Beloved Community, caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence.”
While much work remains to fulfill Dr. King’s dream of a Beloved Community, the King Center and AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteerism and national service, remains committed to the belief that service can unite Americans from all walks of life to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges. As leaders of these two organizations, we share a commitment to honoring Dr. King’s legacy of service. As you consider how you will focus your time and efforts in this new year, we urge you to pledge to volunteer and give back to your community through 2022.
The upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 17 is your opportunity to start taking actions that will make our communities more equitable and create the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. Observed each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service. During the last quarter-century, the MLK Day of Service has grown and impact has increased as more Americans embrace the idea that taking an active role in our nation makes our communities stronger.
Thousands of organizations step up each year to serve others, both in honor of the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. Volunteers have cleaned up a public space, mentored a young person or assisted those who are food insecure, to name a few examples. Big or small, what these volunteers do makes a world of difference. Whether virtual or in-person, these service events exemplify the values Dr. King championed, honor his legacy and tackle the challenges our communities are facing.
These volunteers put into action one of Dr. King’s most famous quotes, “everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
Together we can strengthen communities and transform lives. We can build more equitable and just communities that foster racial equity, expand opportunity, build bridges across differences and create lasting impact for our neighbors in greatest need. Join us and millions of Americans in commemorating Dr. King’s legacy. Commit to serve on Monday, January 17, and pledge to serve throughout 2022.
Michael D. Smith is the CEO of AmeriCorps.
Dr. Bernice King is an American lawyer, minister and the youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.