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Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Call to Service

Over the years, many may view the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the frame of civil rights. However, his life symbolizes the power of service and volunteering, not only to heal racial and civil rights issues, but also to look at a way of shared responsibility and improving the lives of all. Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams wrote that much of Dr. King’s service can be summed up in one of his most famous sayings, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”.

For nearly 25 years, America has set aside a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King as a great hero of American history. In recent years, it has also been designated as a day of service, a day to be able to engage people in service to our community, our school, our nation and our world. Dr. King understood that working together with a common purpose was essential to building what he called “the beloved community”.

Public schools are moving into an era of change. Many of us are trying to make sense of those changes. I believe that with change comes opportunity. We have to work together and build on our collective capacity for goodness and developing strong educational programs with all the resources -- human, financial and social/emotional that we can -- with a focus on student achievement and collaboration in working and supporting one another with the end goal of making public schools a great place for learning.

Service to one another, students, families and community is a way to look past many of our own personal problems and be able to rise above them, finding goodness and joy in serving others. Dr. King changed the course of history basically with the power of his ideals, his hard work and grass roots of the people around him and those that were inspired by his work. His life of service reminds us that it is everyday acts of ordinary citizens can make a community extraordinary.

Please be sure to share Dr. King’s legacy, not only in your own life but in your students’ lives as well.

Image: William Hughes
About the author: Dr. William Hughes has worked in education for  31 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools. He has served as Superintendent of the Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisconsin for the past 14 years. Greendale is a garden community and one of three greenbelt communities in the United States. It is a suburban district of about 2,600 students located in the Milwaukee metro area; an area known for high achieving schools.  Greendale is known for its high level of student achievement with over 90 percent of graduates attending higher education institutions, ongoing community engagement on multiple levels, along with collaborative relationships with bargaining groups while retaining a focus on children, service, citizenship and learning. He is a former board member of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, a member of the National School Climate Council, board member of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

You can contact William Hughes at
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