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Congressional hopeful offers new name for King Day
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/21/2008 2:40 PM | Updated: 1/21/2008 11:36 PM

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If elected, congressional candidate Kenneth Arnold says he'd seek to have Martin Luther King Jr. Day renamed to make it more inclusive.

Arnold, a candidate in the 8th Congressional District Republican primary, said he would push to create "American Martyrs Day." He said King would appreciate the renaming, which was part of a "white paper solution" released Saturday.

"I am thinking in full measure of what Martin Luther King was: inclusiveness," Arnold said Monday. "We should be a society of inclusion, not exclusion."

Some minority leaders disagree, saying everyone can celebrate King's message of love, nonviolence and hope with his name attached to the day.

Mario Lambert, second vice president of the NAACP's DuPage County chapter, said King's name should stand alone on that day. Lambert said it's important to have King specifically recognized for representing the struggles of black Americans, while recognizing other groups that were oppressed.

"African-Americans are still distinguished in that there still is a hard road ahead before things are perfectly balanced," he said.

King's birthday was first observed as a national holiday in 1986.

Under Arnold's idea, the new holiday would remain on the third Monday of January and would celebrate notable American civilians -- regardless of race, creed or color -- who suffered hardship or death to promote higher ideals.

In addition to King, Robert F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks and Sitting Bull would be worthy of recognition on the holiday, Arnold said. He envisions Congress debating the issue, then assigning responsibility to the president for inducting a new member for the holiday annually by proclamation.

Arnold, 51, of Gurnee, is facing Kirk Morris of Gurnee and Long Grove resident Steve Greenberg in the 8th District's GOP primary Feb. 5. The district includes western Lake, eastern McHenry and northwest Cook counties.

Greenberg, 36, scoffed at the idea of renaming the holiday.

He said the proposal is "silly" and, if elected to Congress, he would block any attempt to change the holiday.

"He is a one of a kind," Greenberg said of King.

Morris, 50, couldn't be reached for comment.