Twenty years ago the U.S. government observed for the first time a national holiday to honor the legacy of civil rights leader artin Luther King, Jr. In that space of time, Georgetown has made great strides in recognizing the continuing importance of King’s mission in our society. The university has established an extensive range of activities to mark the occasion and reflect on the state of race relations in our country.

Georgetown deserves praise for its thoughtful approach to celebrating the MLK holiday when many other universities do not offer nearly as many events to commemorate King’s life. But despite the amount of planning and attention the administration has given this week’s events, several improvements can be made. Although the university boasts a number of exciting activities that have even drawn appearances by President Bush twice in the last two years, the whole program feels severely detached from student life.

First, many students only look at the holiday as another day off from classes, even though there is incredible potential for the day to be one of service to the community – and remembrance of Dr. King and his ideals – on a large scale. The university could do more to advertise this week’s goings-on throughout campus. Any campus-wide e-mail is likely to be lost among the torrent of messages the university broadcasts. The only other large-scale attempt to reach students this year seemed to be a few signs posted across campus, including one in the lobby of the Leavey Center, which was difficult to see amid the swirls of harried students rushing in and out of the bookstore to return their over-priced books.

If the administration puts so much effort into planning for the holiday, it should at least match its labor with a more high-profile campaign to advertise the offerings. Many students, for example, knew that Georgetown hosts an awards ceremony and gala at the Kennedy Center, but few realized that buses were provided to ferry students to the show. Many of the other events were lost in the shuffle and passed under students’ radars on this bustling campus.

Another nagging problem is the seeming disconnect between the university’s plans and the student body. Georgetown’s artin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations should be aimed at Georgetown students, but it seems that the university is performing for other crowds. Administrators responsible for planning the MLK week should try to bring more of the events back on campus where everyone can participate, as well as increase their efforts to seek students to fill roles for different programs. Students could also have a larger hand in planning the events.

King’s struggle for social justice is far too important and valuable to be forgotten or ignored, and Georgetown has taken the lead in commemorating his work and giving it contemporary resonance. Twenty years after King’s birthday became a national holiday and nearly 38 years after his assassination, inequality and racism are still prevalent issues in our society.

If the university wants its students to take a commanding role in the enduring fight for civil rights and universal respect, it should allow those students more of a voice in celebrating and discussing King. Georgetown’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observances will only truly be a success when students are more integrally involved and hopefully moved to action, as King would have wanted.

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