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MLK day a time of reflection

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- "Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation." 

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

January 21 marks the 22nd anniversary observance of the federal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

For many years, Dr. King's actual birthday, Jan. 15, was observed as a legal holiday in 27 states until in 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared the third Monday in January a federal legal holiday. 

The road to victory was not an easy one; it began after Dr. King's death in 1968, when Rep. John Conyers (D) introduced the first bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday to the collection of more than six million signatures for a petition to Congress to make Dr. King's birthday a federal holiday. It wasn't until 15 years following Dr. King's death, that President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law. 

So what are we actually celebrating? How should we celebrate? It's really quite simple ... we reflect. 

We reflect on the fact that Dr. King spent most of his life fighting for equal rights for not only African Americans, but for all mankind from all walks of life. 

We reflect on this special occasion with joy and celebration for Dr. King's life's legacy toward the fight for nonviolent social change in America and the world. 

We reflect on the fact that through it all, this holiday observance symbolizes our beautiful nation's commitment to peace through justice and understanding to others. 

What makes this holiday different from all others is that it represents our democracy towards the principles of freedom, justice and equality for mankind-the pillars of our constitution. 

As we celebrate MLK Day, we need to reflect and think of our sisters and brothers protecting the gifts that Dr. King lived and died for and to encourage one another. 

So when you are off on Jan. 21, reflect by celebrating the equality, the freedom and the man, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.