Guam – Celebrated every third Monday of January, today is our nation’s Martin Luther King Day of Service. On Monday morning elected leaders met with students and program administrators for the Serve Guam Commission and AmeriCorps in remembrance of The Reverend King and his outstanding life of service to the cause of freedom and equality in our nation and throughout the world.
“But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right!” Dr. King cried out in his last public address, delivered at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968.
It’s been nearly 51 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech and his assassination the following day on April 4, 1968.
From a young age, The Reverend King called the nation to service in pursuit of racial equality. Always in a hurry to serve others and never one to waste time, he even wrote the book Why We Can’t Wait—part of it from Birmingham Jail in Alabama.
King is credited with becoming and remaining the nation’s foremost figure in the movement to turn back the tide of racial injustice and segregation. And he accomplished many landmark feats for the cause before the age of 40, a birthday he never reached.
Today at Guam’s Martin Luther King Day of Service at Agana Shopping Center, Dept. of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez reminded young people that each of them, too, can be great in his or her own way.
“Martin Luther King was 26 when he led the bus boycott in Montgomery,” Fernandez told those gathered at the mall’s center court for a celebration of service in King’s honor.
“He was in his early 30’s when he was leading the marches in Selma, when he was put in jail—I believe one of the students told me—over 20 times. He was only in his early 30’s! He was in his mid-30’s when he won the Nobel Peace Prize when leading nonviolent efforts for civil rights.
“And when he was assassinated, he was only 39. So what I want to say to you — all you young people who have been called up here — is that it’s never too early to get into service. It’s never too early to serve your community. It’s never too early to be part of the solution.”
Fernandez called on high school students seeking service credits toward graduation and college students seeking tuition credits through AmeriCorps to take up worthwhile causes in a hurry. Be it through protecting and sustaining natural resources, through pursuing the objectives of self-determination, or through helping improve the island economy and standards of living for all. And that there’s no better time than now to start making a difference.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero expressed gratitude for Dr. King in his laying the groundwork for progress on the forefront of equality in the five decades and counting since his untimely passing.
“He had conviction…and he had the love to move forward the equality in not just the United States but all throughout the whole world,” the governor said.
“He led the change for how we look at civil rights. He was a man who paved the road for gender equality, for racial equality, religious equality and every aspect of civil rights.”
Today those gathered celebrated the torch they have been passed in remembrance of a life of service whose convictions were so strong that even today they thunder through the ages.
“I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land,” King said during his final speech, back in ’68.
By law, Public High School students on Guam must complete 75 hours of service learning as a requirement for graduation. Service hours earned are printed on each report card.