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What Dr. King Teaches Us About Service

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“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
         — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Decades later, Dr. King’s words still ring true and are especially meaningful today as thousands of Boys & Girls Clubs follow his example by serving their own communities on what would’ve been his 94th birthday.

Clubs have long believed that age doesn’t limit a person’s power to change the world — a fact proven time and again by Dr. King himself. The iconic civil rights activist enrolled in college at age 15 and graduated while still in his teens. At 17 years old, he penned a letter to the editor published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stating that Black people "are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens.” Dr. King’s early and inspired activism made an unparalleled impact on the civil rights movement, eventually leading him to become the youngest person in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35.

Taking time to honor Dr. King’s legacy, not just on his birthday but every day, helps inspire young people to build an equitable world where everyone can thrive. This is a mission that Boys & Girls Club teens care deeply about, with the majority ranking racial justice, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ issues as most important to them. At the Club, all youth are empowered to be themselves, share their stories and learn from each other in safe spaces with positive role models. They also demonstrate Dr. King’s leadership by participating in service-learning projects, volunteering and rallying to address critical needs in their communities.

Supporting service projects on MLK Jr. Day is also one of my favorite Club experiences. After our 2021 hiatus, I’m thrilled to jump back into this tradition with some of BGCA’s senior leadership team at Boys & Girls Club of Franklin-Simpson County in Kentucky. We have the privilege of dining with community members at a celebration breakfast in Dr. King’s honor at the First United Methodist Church before joining in a community march. Afterwards, we’ll return to the Club to assist with renovations to their teen and gaming spaces and host a grand opening ceremony for the public!

BGCA continued the celebration of Dr. King’s life and service at a free virtual event, Into the Light! A Dr. King Holiday Celebration of Youth, Family & Community. This powerful event highlighted courageous and creative ways Boys & Girls Clubs and youth across the Movement pay tribute to Dr. King and work together for positive change. 

Thank you to all who are participating in this National Day of Service as we honor one of the most influential civil rights activists in our nation’s history. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us continue to bring light, love and grace to our communities.


Jim Clark
President and CEO
Boys & Girls Clubs of America

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