Talk about mixed messages emanating from the federal government regarding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
On Friday, President Donald J. Trump declared Jan. 15 a federal holiday. He encouraged Americans to mark the day with “acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King’s extraordinary life.”
Apparently he is a leader who implores the American people to do as he says — and not as he does.
From all indications Trump did not engage in any community service or acts of civic work. Instead, he spent Monday on the golf course at the Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to national news accounts.
All of his recent predecessors performed some type of community service on the federal holiday.
That’s not the only mixed message.
On Friday, Trump was flanked by Isaac Newton Farris Jr., one of King’s nephews. He serves as president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
“If my uncle were here today, the first thing he would say is, ‘What are we, or what are you, doing for others?’ That’s why is was so important that my aunt Coretta Scott King returned to the Congress now about 10 years ago and asked that meaning of the holiday be changed. We did not want the King Holiday to just be a day of Hero worship,” Farris said.
“As his nephew, I certainly think that he was one of the greatest Americans that we’ve produced. But it should not be a day of hero worship,” Farris implored. “And, that’s why the Congress agreed with my aunt and also made it a day of service so that we on that day – as a matter of fact at the King Center we refer to it as a day on, not a day off. It’s not a day to hang out in the park or pull out the barbecue grill. It’s a day to do something to help someone else. That can be as simple as delivering someone’s trash or picking up the newspaper for that elderly person who can’t get to the end of the driveway. Bottom line: you’re doing something that benefits someone other than yourself. That’s the proper way to remember my uncle and the proper way to celebrate the King Holiday.”
He specifically said, “It is not a day to hang out in the park.”
Yet, the National Park Service, including Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park, feverishly promoted the fact that admission to national parks was free on Martin Luther King Day. All entrance fees were waived.
Park entrance normally costs $25 per vehicle for a seven-day permit or $12 for walk-ins, bicycles and motorcycles.
It all adds up to a discombobulated message and ultimately one of disrespect to the slain civil rights leader.
The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
The president calls on the American people to perform community service but doesn’t do it himself. And the King family says the federal holiday is not designed to spend a day in the park but the federal park system shuns that notion and does all it can to lure visitors to national parks on the holiday.
There is a time for free access to national parks. Martin Luther King Day is not one of them.