On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an official proclamation making, January 15 as the “Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday.” This year marks the first time in more than a decade that the federal holiday falls on King’s actual birthday.
According to a White House statement, President Trump observed before the event that Reverend King preached love throughout his life—love for each other, for our fellow Americans, and for humanity. That is what drove his work. We celebrate King first and foremost for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear: No matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth, we are ALL created equal by God. This April will mark half a century since King was cruelly taken from us by an assassin’s bullet. As we mourn his loss, we also pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice, and peace.
At the signing ceremony, Trump said: "Reverend King preached love throughout his life, love for each other, for our fellow Americans, and for humanity," adding, "That is what drove his work."
On Monday, the president designated King's birthplace and burial site, as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church, as part of a national historic park. In the presence of two of King's living relatives, Trump signed a bill into law that upgraded the site from a national historic site to a national historic park. Present for the signing were King's niece Dr. Alveda King and nephew Isaac Newton Farris Jr., as well as Bruce Levell of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.
After the ceremony, members of the media could be heard asking the president to comment on remarks attributed to him about El Salvador and Haiti that have been criticized by Democrats and Republicans as racist. CNN contributor April Ryan was heard to ask "Are you a racist?"
Georgia Democrat Rep. John Lewis sponsored the bill and said he is “so proud that we were able to work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner” to establish Georgia’s first National Historical Park ahead of the 50th anniversary of King's assassination. “I hope that this moment will serve as a reminder of the constant work to realize Dr. King’s dream of building the Beloved Community -- a community at peace with itself and our neighbors,” Lewis said in a statement. Lewis is himself a veteran of the historic Civil Rights movement.
The home where King Jr. was born is in the historic Sweet Auburn historic district in Atlanta. The historic park includes Prince Hall Masonic Temple. According to Lewis, the Temple donated land to the National Park Service in an effort to ensure King’s story and the legacy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The Temple served as the initial headquarters of the SCLC, which King co-founded in 1957. Lewis, who marched with King, represents the 5th Congressional district, which includes the King Historic site. Congress initially established the site in the fall of 1980.
In related news, the Cherokee Nation will mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday for the first time in its history. This came just months after a federal court ruled that descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen who were owned by members of the nation, have a right to tribal citizenship. On January 8, Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced an executive order he signed that declares January 15 as a Cherokee Nation national holiday. Baker said of King,"He was a remarkable advocate for change for all people of color in America, including Indian Country." January 15 is the federal observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.