Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Abraham Lincoln: In Kentucky, native son loses

Not long ago, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued a press release announcing that new welcome signs had been erected at the interstate entrances to the Bluegrass State. These signs proclaim Kentucky as the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and are intended to stress Kentucky's ties to the 16th president during the upcoming celebration of the bicentennial of his birth.

Illinois calls itself the "Land of Lincoln" since he lived there when he was elected to the presidency, but Kentuckians haven't forgotten that the man who freed the slaves and kept the Union together during the Civil War was born in Larue County.

But how much homage do we really pay to Lincoln? After all, we don't honor him in this state with a holiday anymore.

It's important to revisit that question today, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, when state offices are closed.

Despite the signs, and despite the fact that arguably Lincoln did more for blacks than King when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it appears that Kentucky pays more homage to King than to its native son.

Quite frankly, we find that unconscionable.

A few years ago, Kentucky observed Presidents Day (the day set aside to recognize the birthdays of both Lincoln and George Washington) and Veterans Day. As the national trend to establish King holidays came to Kentucky, our legislature gave in and set the third Monday in January as the King holiday, on which state offices would be closed. Since Kentucky already recognizes 11 and a half state holidays, and state workers already suffer from a negative perception, the legislature didn't establish an additional holiday. Instead, they revoked Veterans' Day and put the King holiday in place.

During the Patton administration, however, the state decided to re-establish Veterans' Day, in November, as a holiday. To compensate, since there was no desire to add another state holiday, Presidents' Day was taken away.

The end result is that in Kentucky, Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized with a holiday while Abraham Lincoln is not.

We don't agree with this logic at all.

Lincoln was from Kentucky, King was not. We certainly think a credible case can be made for the argument that Lincoln did as much for civil rights as King, albeit a century earlier. Without Lincoln, there may not have been an Emancipation Proclamation and there may not have been an end to the Civil War that kept the Union intact. And it can certainly be argued that both Lincoln and King were assassinated because of their stance on civil rights.

None of us here at KPac are stupid. We realize that any move to rescind the King holiday would meet with an immediate and violent response. Besides, it wouldn't be politically correct, and we've never known Kentucky's leaders (especially the Democrats) to show a backbone and do the right thing. So the only logical thing to do is re-institute Presidents' Day as a state holiday and give our native-born president the recognition and honor he deserves.

We don't believe the people and voters of this state would object too strenuously to adding another state holiday to the calendar for this noble reason.


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