Following is a reprint of my 2003 MLK Day post
, with further commentary below.--
For years I'd heard news stories about debates over whether or not to establish an official Martin Luther King holiday, and never did anyone report the arguments against. I always suspected that one was that we had way too many day-off-of-work holidays as it was. Having one three weeks after Christmas does seem a bit superfluous. MLK Day would be only the third national holiday named after a person, the others being Christmas and Columbus Day, commemorating the chief catalyst for Western culture and the chief catalyst for extending Western culture to the Americas. (In the case of the latter, make that Western cultures; English and Iberian influences were vastly different.) Some, I imagine, feel that only those rare individuals who have had such a radical impact should have holidays named for them. Dr. King isn't in that league; the only Americans who are are the Founders; their holiday is July 4.--
Here's my argument against making January 15 [Update: MLK Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January, which happens to fall on the 15th in 2003] an official holiday: it's not fair to everyone else involved in the civil rights movement. Independence Day isn't just about one guy. We have a holiday for all those who made the Declaration of Independence happen. We should have a federal holiday called Civil Rights Day. It would be like Memorial Day, honoring leaders of past civil rights struggles instead of soldiers of past wars.
My recommendation is to schedule it for the first Monday in September, replacing Labor Day, the brainchild of United Brotherhood of Carpenters founder Peter J. McGuire. Talk about not being fair to everyone else who makes it happen - when do we celebrate Entrepreneur Day and Management Day? Labor Day is a day for a telethon, family outings, and union propaganda. Let's keep the first two and get rid of that last item. The unions bathe us in propaganda every election cycle and every time important legislation comes up. They don't need a special holiday.
Long-time readers will recall that I have been recognizing Labor Day as Commerce Day. There should be enough room on the calendar for both of proposals, since there is no net change in the number of holidays. Commerce Day could keep the current Labor Day slot, and Civil Rights Day could be scheduled on the 5th of July - grouping the latter with Independence Day seems appropriate (and an extra day off from work makes more sense in July than January). Or, MLK Day could take the September date, and Commerce Day could be scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving - the first day of the Christmas shopping season.