SINN: What not being in school on MLK Day meant to me

Striking a tone for the New Year, on the day of the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, Grand Valley State University canceled all classes Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Jan 22, 2013


There were events on campus throughout the past week to commemorate his legacy and leadership, and to celebrate the pursuit of social justice.

This significance of this new scholastic holiday goes deeper than a three-day weekend and a chance to sleep in on a Monday.

In the time of my secondary education at Spring Lake Public Schools, I remember the day as it passed each year. Our school always made an effort to enlighten us with scheduled in-class viewings of various films about the Civil Rights movement, on the date itself and continuing throughout February, Black History Month.

A few of us got the chance to participate in a student-made video in which students and faculty read quotes of wisdom and inspiration from historical figures. In my senior year (2011), I got to read a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Once one assumes an attitude of intolerance, there is no knowing where it will take one. Intolerance, someone has said, is violence to the intellect and hatred is violence to the heart.”

Few leaders in our history have acted against the attitude of intolerance as boldly as did Martin Luther King Jr. King fought without rest or refrain: from the Montgomery bus boycotts to the sit-ins in Atlanta; during his time in a Birmingham jail; on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was later named Time magazine's Man of the Year and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1969, he was assassinated on a balcony in Memphis, Tenn.

His life’s work is legendary, yet remains to us a vibrant and fundamentally important piece of recent history. His speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 is probably the most iconic, familiar image of the entire modern Civil Rights movement.

His commitment and persistence to the goal of change is now our responsibility.

The day serves as not just a memorial, but as a reminder that, in our time, we must not only dream, but act upon our ideals — especially those which we do not currently see in society. I cannot think of a better reason to mark off a date on the calendar than to honor a man who best exemplified and acted upon these principles. I was happy to celebrate this man’s work while in the classroom — but now, I am glad to have the freedom outside the classroom to reflect more personally.

The day off from school is symbolic of a pause.

The day is for Martin Luther King Jr.’s passion, suffering and dedication — not only for the man, but more importantly for his dream, a dream which was realized through the courage of men and woman the world over, thousands of individuals cohesive in their struggle, if divided in their methods.

It is the process of change which we celebrate. It is a day to commemorate and honor all those who pave the path to civil justice; those who stand against intolerance. And so, as I salute the late Rev. King, I am equally grateful to the millions whose suffering we do not grant a day of rest and celebration.

Truthfully, we cannot fully grasp and recognize the suffering, dedication and ability of people to overcome their circumstances in one measly Monday.

But even such a small step brings us forward.

Last semester, I took a class called Human Origins. It was a science course, which taught us the theory of human evolution — who we are and where we come from. But perhaps the most valuable lesson of this course — with which my professor wisely ended the semester — is that we, as humans, are more the same than we are different. We are nearly all identical, biologically, and there is more diversity within a population than between them. This information is humbling, and reminds us that a struggle for any group of people is a struggle for us all.

That same professor taught our class the ultimate fallacy of racism. She said, “There is only one race: the human race.”

Sometimes that race is slow. Sometimes, we must take a day off to examine why we are here, and dream of where we may go.

— By Alexander Sinn, Tribune community columnist



Whoa, for a minute there you bored me to death. I have a dream; thank God you aren't in it. Having a day off at college for us meant drinking beer, chasing girls, and making bad choices. To quote Ben Franklin, he lived prior to Martin Luther King Jr., "Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy." Me thinks you may benefit from the aforementioned ritual; stop being so philosophical and party. Keep in mind that growing up is not all it is cracked up to be; you are way too serious. I know, some of you will disagree with my comments, but seriously, lets not complicate things with words or feelings.


Not to complicate things with words, but this is a column. Of words.

It addresses a specific subject, and has no reference or relevance to my actual college life, as crazy a story as that is.

This forum, field, and practice is for serious engagement. That's kind of the point. There is a time for philosophizing and one for partying, and I'm sure just about everyone knows which belongs in the Tribune. Nonetheless, I do appreciate the comment.


Yes . . . we all know which one belongs in the Tribune. It is more about partying. If you look over Tribune articles you will find many fewer articles about philosophizing than about the wild side of our society.


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