"[I]n any movement or struggle there come times when you need some individual or some group of individuals to step forward and become the symbol of the struggle, the personification of its essence, the face, if you will, of what you are fighting for. Call it a leader, but it's not a leader in the sense of any kind of control. It's a leader in terms of inspiration and vision. It's a man or woman who doesn't see him- or herself as any larger than the movement itself.
"Martyrs, champions, men and women of all kinds throughout time have stepped forward as this kind of figure, from Jesus to Joan of Arc. Gandhi played this role in the struggle for liberation in India. John F. Kennedy became it for many Americans at the turn of the 1960s. Martin Luther King played it for a large section of the civil rights movement."
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day honors more than Dr. King, it honors all of the people of America's civil rights movement. Their struggles, sacrifices, and even deaths, did more to advance the never ending cause of cleansing and perfecting the soul of our nation than any other effort in my lifetime. To my mind, that makes this a national day of honor and remembrance of the first order; more resonant than Independence Day, more significant than the birthday of any of our presidents, or of Dr. King, himself. "Thank you all" isn't adequate, but it ought to be said, and that's a big part of what Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is about.