Every year, on the third Monday of January, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Programs and events are held and acts of service occur in and around local/state/national communities. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day) is now a federal holiday, when in 2000 it was finally recognized in all 50 states in the U.S.
It’s easy to let MLK Day to come and go without much recognition, or to view it only as a day to relax with your family or work on those items you have been putting off on your to-do list. And while those things aren’t necessarily bad, it is important to not miss out on the opportunity to recognize the holiday and explain to our kids WHY we celebrate this important day.
The establishment of MLK Day was to honor Dr. King’s life and legacy and conduct acts of service. He was a man whose life was devoted to the service of others; from his role as a pastor at his Baptist church all the way to the Civil Rights movement and his fight for unity and diversity in this country. There are many lessons to be drawn from his life; however, there are three that stand out to me as powerful life lessons to pass down to our kids, those that can help explain MLK Day to kids.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
3 Life Lessons Your Kids Can Learn From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Life & Legacy
- Speak Your Truth – Dr. King was a man who was committed to speaking his truth and speaking the truth on the behalf of those who had no voice. What an incredible lesson to teach our kids: the value of making sure that their words always ring true. To remind them that wherever and whenever they are in a position of privilege and there is injustice unfolding, it is important for them to speak up and speak the truth.
- Be A Positive Influence – The Memphis Sanitation Strike, Montgomery Bus Boycott, March on Washington, and Native American activism are few examples where Dr. King used his influence to change countless lives for the better. His involvement in those events is part of what made these events impactful and memorable. Our kids need to understand that their influence is powerful and can bring about change in a positive way beyond just today. It is also a reminder for them that who they choose to be influenced by is just as powerful and so being mindful of the friends they keep is vital.
- Never Stop Dreaming – Dr. King had a dream. We are all familiar with his memorable “I Have A Dream” speech in some capacity. Despite the horrific backlash and challenges he faced, he never stopped dreaming that one day there would be unity among us all. While we still have a ways to go to see the true fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream come to pass. We have made great strides as a nation toward it. Teaching our kids to never stop dreaming, even when they face great adversity, is a tool in their life lesson tool belt that they will need to use often.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This MLK Day, I encourage you to take a moment and learn something new about the life and legacy of Dr. King. Share what you have learned with your children in an age-appropriate manner. Talk with your children about the lessons I suggested here that can be learned from his life. Better yet, in explaining MLK Day to your kids, let them SEE those lessons in your day-t-day actions.
Let’s make an intention this year to learn more and set an example. If we don’t take the time to look back and observe and see what we can learn, we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. This is not a call to perfectionism, but a call to action and intent because the next generation depends on it.