Honoring the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last updated: January 17, 2022, at 6:00 a.m. PT

Originally published: January 17, 2022, at 6:00 a.m. PT


In observance of  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we join others across the nation to recognize and celebrate the scholar and human rights advocate and to honor his life, legacy, and impact. On this day, we pause to reflect and learn more about ourselves as a nation and community, as we aspire to live the dream, be better, and create a more equitable and inclusive community for all. 

On this national holiday, we invite you to walk with us on this journey as we celebrate and build on Dr. King’s work and legacy. Sign up to volunteer, donate, or engage in learning and advocacy with the Y to help make an impact. Together with our collective action, engagement, and conviction, the path lighted by Dr. King can be a paved road to equity and justice for all.  

Much will be said today about Dr. King’s dream for an end to racism and the hope and optimism he demonstrated every day in a relentless pursuit of liberty and freedom for all. Dr. King also had another dream, one that was deferred by time and remains unfinished. 

The Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King’s last push before his life was tragically cut short, was planned as another march on Washington. This march centered on eradicating poverty and economic injustice for all. The campaign sought to focus the nation on the plight of Americans living below the poverty line. 

“A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty,” Dr. King said in 1964, during his Nobel Peace Prize address. 

Dr. King had crisscrossed our nation for years witnessing extreme poverty for people of all races and ethnicities who struggled with hunger, insufficient housing, health care access, and more, and he asked himself, “why are there 40 million poor people in America?” 

The faces of malnourished youth haunted him. He asked how the wealthiest nation on the planet could also have such struggle for the youngest among us. 

“Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night,” Dr. King said during the Poor People’s Campaign. “They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in …. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist.” 

Dr. King’s unrealized dream lives on today, through our continued work for equity and justice for all through necessary systems change. At the Y, we remain committed to the goals Dr. King had for the nation. We are committed to addressing need, undoing cycles of harm, and working with community and civic leaders to help all people thrive, in everything we do, everywhere we do it.  

Building on Dr. King‘s legacy, the Y’s Vision 2025 is a bold plan for strengthening community by investing in youth and their families, dismantling systemic barriers that impede access and underutilize potential, and empowering all people to thrive. By reaching those furthest from opportunity and removing barriers to opportunity in all its forms, from education and health to housing and hunger, we aspire to achieve generational changes that help build a better us for the future.