MLK or President's Day?

One guy, or forty-some-odd?

This past Friday, I was asked by my boss to chose whether I would be taking off Monday (today) or Monday, 2/18/08.  That was all he asked. He didn't remind me which day was which holiday and so I pulled out our family calendar and started comparing which days off were which.

My son has today off from middle school; classes were also closed at my daughter's college.  In fact, my daughter also has been given the day off (without pay) from work.  Google reminded me instantly that it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  And February 18th?  That's President's Day.

So what is President's Day anyway?  According to, President's Day was originally designated as a national holiday to honor the birth of George Washington and has come to be known as Presidents Day, honoring all the tremendous presidents American has had throughout its history.

I sat back in my chair for a moment and considered all of this.  After all, my boss needed to know which day I was taking, and I had to coordinate holidays with everyone else in the family.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  Well, Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly a great man, no doubt about it.  He brought leadership to the Civil Rights movement.  He called for true freedom for all Americans, regardless of color.  He was a deeply religious man.  He cared greatly about moral values, not just "color" value.

"A pivotal figure of the civil rights movement" as puts it.  In so many ways he was a good man, certainly a highly intelligent man.  Well read, well spoken, influential well beyond his life.  But equal to all the Presidents of the nation?

And back to the family calendar.  My son goes to middle school on President's Day (though of course the mail doesn't get delivered).  My daughter goes to college on President's Day, and she goes back to work as well.

Today, I am at work on MLK day, because for all his good points (and there are many), I can't quite see celebrating the anniversary of the assassination of this one man (who was leaving his mistress when he was shot) over celebrating Washington and Jefferson, Adams and Lincoln, Taft and Hoover, Wilson and Reagan and all the other great men who led this country through good times and bad to become the greatest cause for truth and justice and freedom in the world today.

MLK or President's Day?  I choose President's Day.

Demosthenes is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Demosthenes or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments
Wow... this one just came out off the cuff... it appears as though there was very little planning or fore thought that preceded your effort here.

Just a couple items to make my case: MLK day is not about celebrating the anniversary of the assassination of MLK, it is about celebrating the man and his life's work...

It seems unbalanced to mention MLK's mistress and leave out mistresses that belonged to some of the president's you mentioned.

Lastly, besides sharing with us that you would rather celebrate President's day, what exactly is your point here?
January 21, 2008 4:15 PM
MLK or President's Day? I choose BOTH! Why one or the other? I do find it odd that your child's school doesn't let the kids off on that day too. I remember (a long time ago) being let out on both MLK and President's Day in both primary and secondary school. I can't believe that's no longer the case.
January 21, 2008 4:18 PM
Ed - I believe that the point being made is that given a choice between the two, Demosthenes would prefer to take President's Day.
A sub-point I read is that in so many places now, recognition of one great man has displaced the recognition of many of our founding fathers.

For the record, where I work I was also presented a choice. I will have a three day weekend in February, thank you very much. (Thank God I also get Good Friday off with this employer!)
January 21, 2008 4:24 PM
RoguePope - I agree with you on the stated point of choosing one day or the other, but the presentation left itself open to many things that could be implied... and if the stated point, was the only intended point of the author, it just comes off as 'not worth writing about'

I contrast this with some of the excellent and insightful articles that Scragged has put out in the last month.
January 21, 2008 4:34 PM
If MLK was such a great moral man, as you say at first, why then is it necessary to say "who was leaving his mistress when he was shot"?
January 21, 2008 4:38 PM
Well put Garrison. Add disingenuous to the list.
January 21, 2008 4:41 PM
Half those presidents you mentioned had mistresses. Also, most of them had slaves. Kind of ironic, considering what Dr. King was fighting against.
January 21, 2008 4:47 PM
Perhaps the point was merely to cause thought about the sudden ubiquitous nature of MLK Day. Never has there been a 'great man' without faults, whether they be politicians or sports players.

Any number of scholarly articles can be found discussing the many things Martin Luther King Jr. did in his life (and the author cites one here), just as any number of articles can be found discussing the comparative merits and morals of each of our many presidents.

The thought that this article brings to my mind is just simply what the author says...which day is more important?
January 21, 2008 5:07 PM
"Equal to all the Presidents of the nation?" Wouldn't the comparison " any one of the Presidents of the nation" be logically sufficient? or does presidential karma add up over time? sorry - this is facetious. I just had to give in to the temptation.

I do suggest that a man that volunteers his life for a cause he believes in must compare well to any of those that chose to be elected to do the job that was expected of them.
January 21, 2008 5:10 PM
I think the point here is not that King was a rogue or a scoundrel, particularly. Dr. King's appetite for the ladies is very thoroughly documented; it's equally true that dozens of Presidents behaved similarly. The point of the mention, and indeed of the article, seems to be that Dr. King is not some unique moral paragon. He was a great man worthy of respect, and was imperfect in other ways as are we all; but is he a greater man that, say, Washington or Lincoln, and thus not only deserving of his own private day that they don't get, but even of a "more important" holiday than ALL our presidents combined? That's the question being asked here, and I find it interesting that many readers are revolted at the mention of Dr. King's pecadilloes, which are simply a matter of historical record. In effect, that proves the author's point.
January 21, 2008 5:38 PM

Please give me one credible URL or book or mainstream reference as to the "historical record" you are referring. I know of no such rumor. Your site is usually very good at documenting such sharp comments with credible, non-blog references.
January 21, 2008 5:42 PM
Dunno why Scragged didn't link to it in the article, but it's easy enough to find plenty of documentation with a little Googling.

Researched biography (by a black preacher and PhD, for those who care):

Not helpful if you don't own it or want to buy it, but here's a site mentioning and summarizing the contents of the work as related to this question:
January 21, 2008 5:47 PM
OK Patience... I've lost mine :)

I'm not in this group 'revolted at the mention of Dr. King's pecadilloes' not at all... I'm in the group that wonders why you would mention those of Dr. King and fail to mention those of the presidents. To the point, it is unbalanced! Remember, the author's point is about comparing the days in question. In support of his/her final conclusion, he takes a shot at MLK and only has good to say about the presidents. Sorry, but that is unbalanced and one sided. Also, your comment about Dr. King's pecadilloes being part of the historical reocrd is a bit overstated. While I do not deny that he had a mistress, I am curious as to how you define 'historical record' and to what 'credible' sources are you referring to?
January 21, 2008 5:59 PM
Not having read the book, I would believe the rumor just in seeing that Dyson wrote it. For those of you that have not read Michael Eric Dyson or heard him speak, he is a strong affirmative-action, hip-hop advocate. One of his latest books was against Bill Cosby and how wrong and "uncle tom" he is. Dyson is certainly no "white apologist" for the black community. Far from it. Wow! If he wrote that about MLK, that's all the proof I need that it happened. He wrote another book on Marvin Gaye that was extremely powerful and well researched. I agree with almost everything he says, but he's certainly not liable to make-up that about MLK without VERY good reason.

Not that ANY of this has anything to do with the author's originaly point.
January 21, 2008 6:18 PM
M.L. King should be held to a higher standard than the lecherous presidents. King was supposed to be a Baptist preacher. Ipso facto, he should be living the precepts of the Bible to the best of his ability. Adultery is NOT a desirous characteristic of one supposed to be leading a Christian church and should not be viewed as an innocent slip. Ministers do and should be ashamed and defrocked for this. Unless maybe your name is King, Jackson, etc. Let's face it, we have M.L. King day because we're too lazy to remember Frederick Douglas. Douglas did not pose as a minister of God. We are also too lazy to remember Harriet Tubman. Cast this vote for Civil Rights Day. How can we justify a King Day and not a Lincoln Day? Because we're historically lazy, that's why.
January 21, 2008 8:15 PM
Why do we celebrate Martin Luther King today? Because he was a great man or to cover up our pass prejudices. Cities say that they are not prejudice because, we name streets after this man. States say that we are not prejudice because, we celebrate his day in our state. And the country says that we are not prejudice because, we have a national holiday to honor this man. Yes we should honor all our past Presidents but today we honor this man to cover up our pass sins.
January 22, 2008 12:05 AM
On the subject: There are too many holidays. It's annoying. I'm not kidding. Let's scrap all of them, Christmas and the 4th and Memorial Day and Labor Day and all the rest. If one wants to commemorate the occasions, do so, in your own time and in your own way.
January 30, 2008 2:42 AM
I couldn't agree more. I can't stand all the holidays. And with so much cultural erosion, we're more and more likely to get bad holidays stapled on. Just scrap them all. Anyone who wants to celebrate one should take time off from work for that specific one. Employer could give out a package of 5 or 8 discretionary days that you can use as holidays throughout the year, not to be rolled over. I don't understand the cons in this. There have been dozens of studies showing all how holidays negatively effect the economy with so much lost labor. One day is equal to hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions. I don't remember the exact numbers.
January 30, 2008 8:16 AM
I think I've heard somewhere that the Roman Empire had the same problem, considering the tremendous number of nationalities and religions the Empire encompassed. The way they solved it was thus: anybody could propose a new holiday, BUT they had to also propose an existing one to be retired in favor of the new one. That's how Christmas got to be where it is - it replaced the pagan Winter Solstice holiday, both because paganism was dying out, and the remaining pagans supported the new religion's adoption of their existing holiday, because at least that way they'd still get the day off.
January 30, 2008 9:06 PM
I am just shocked that my college is closed on MLK and open on Presidents day. I wonder who made that choice????? Since when is MLK more important than our Presidents (plural).
February 10, 2008 12:25 PM
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