Answering what Dr. King called life’s most persistent and urgent question:

“What are you doing for others?”

By Rosa Colquitt, PhD, Democratic Party of Oregon Vice Chair, DPO Black Caucus Chair

photo image of martin luther king with a quote next to his head and the DPO black caucus logo below the photoJanuary 16, 2023 marks the 28th anniversary of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Observed annually on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” this federally recognized holiday encourages all Americans to honor Dr. King through service to one another and to their communities.

As we close the book on the year that was and welcome 2023 with optimism and renewed expectations, the MLK Day of Service inspires all of us to become much more involved in finding ways to serve others. On the occasion of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, his life, and his legacy, we cannot help to but remember what he was doing on his last day of life: making a difference in the lives of others through supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

I sometimes wonder how different, how much better our communities and our nation would be if each of us could devote a couple of hours each month to volunteerism. There are almost as many ways to volunteer as committed individuals, as there are people to serve. In moving forward into 2023, this is particularly true as we face the challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as hunger, poverty, homelessness, the lack of equitable, quality health care, and mental and racial disparities.
Volunteering as a family is a very special way to teach younger children to serve others and to give back to their community. Knowing how much Dr. King loved his young children, and all children, I believe he would be especially happy to see families volunteering together; to see adults transmitting to future generations the important value of service to others. Indeed, young children learn by observing the behavior of adults.
When discussing how he wanted to be remembered, Dr. King said, “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther king, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.” This is my labor. This is our labor. It is my hope that “democracy” seeking Americans will stand on the front line of answering Dr. King’s urgent question, “What are you doing for others?”
As Oregon Democrats, let’s all come together on the MLK Day of Service, and each day thereafter, to empower individuals through volunteer service to others. To empower people through volunteerism in building strong, healthy, environmentally safe communities, while addressing social and economic inequalities. In volunteering to serve others, we move Oregon and the nation one step closer to Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community.”

Make a difference in the lives of others and in our communities.

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Rosa Colquitt, PhD
Democratic Party of Oregon Vice Chair
Chair, DPO Black Caucus