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Editorial: Martin Luther King Jr. Day a day to remember, serve

January 14, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth anniversary we observe on Monday, is famous for eloquent words, primarily his "I have a dream" message from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

The speech is considered one of the greatest in American history.

In it, he said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

But King, who was assassinated in 1968, deserves to be remembered for other words as well.

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" he once asked.

Monday is a chance to reflect on the civil rights leader's life and lessons, and what his legacy means to American and world society today.

In his life's work to promote justice and equality, King spoke not so much about race as social justice, for people of all colors and creeds.

And he spoke of service to others to help achieve a better society where all people feel their worth.

The communities of the Gorge are invited to Bethel UCC in White Salmon at 7 p.m. Monday for a special way to observe Martin Luther King Day, as Julie Raefield-Gobbo reports on page A1.

The event's musical director said she hopes "to inspire people of our community to continue the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights."

"The lessons I hope that we can still learn from MLK's life would be about sacrifice and being less self-serving," said Evelyn Charity. "Oftentimes, we become complacent and caught up in our lives and we forget about those who are in need of our help. Dr. King reminds us to remain diligent in our fight for those who are still oppressed, uneducated and in poverty."

Here are three ways to observe MLK Day in the spirit of service:

Hood River Warming Shelter: The Hood River shelter for the homeless is a service shared by churches on a weekly rotating basis through March. Volunteers are always needed; schedules are flexible and the training is simple.

To learn more go to: http//hoodrivercares.org or email hrws@hoodrivercares.org.

Donations are accepted at: P.O. Box 656, Hood River, OR 97031.

Spend the day writing to the troops. Draft some letters, and call your veterans service office (details below right) to find out names and addresses, or send them to Operation Gratitude, which can also connect you to troops. Operation Gratitude is at 17330 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91406

If you have not planned a specific way to do service on MLK Day, use this day to start planning for next year. The MLK Day of Service, at mlkday.gov, has action plans and tool kits to get you going on educational, environmental, economic opportunity, service to veterans, and other projects to carry out as individuals for in groups.

It's a non-political approach to giving in the memory of a man whose principles express the better nature of America.

The Day of Service, however it is observed, is a response to King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail, in which he said, "Somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.

"Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the

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