MLK Day: At Penn, A Day of Service and Beyond

caption: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his now famous I Have a Dream speech in Washington, DC, in 1963. Photograph by Francis Miller, LIFE.

The University of Pennsylvania is closed on Monday, January 15, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change begins with the January 15 Day of Service and continues with events taking place through January 31.

For the latest information on the numerous events, visit

After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, some members of Congress proposed that his birthday should be a national holiday. However, it was not until the Ronald Reagan administration that a bill passed and his birthday was designated a national holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday in January starting in 1986 (Almanac April 25, 2000). Penn focused its energy and attention on community service to realize Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community.”

During the administration of Penn President Judith Rodin, the University then made MLK Day an official holiday at Penn as of January 2001, making it “a day on not a day off.” It was then that the annual Day of Service was launched as part of the extensive Commemorative Symposium (Almanac December 12, 2000). Penn’s Commitment to the Legacy: 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change includes opportunities for service, lectures, performances, an interfaith program and awards ceremony. The Symposium is coordinated by the African-American Resource Center, (215) 898-0104. Events are free and open to the community.