A friend of mine works for a Big Four accounting firm. This e-mail was sent to her office on Friday explaining why they don’t get today off.

Subject: In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This coming Monday, we commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the preeminent leaders in the civil rights movement. At the age of 35, Dr. King was the youngest person at that time to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and he is widely known for his work toward ending racial segregation in public schools and promoting meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law that would prohibit racial discrimination in the workplace.

Dr. King was a remarkable speaker, and his “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the most impactful dissertations of all time. But there is another quote he delivered that I think is particularly important for us as a Firm:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Many US companies have decided to give employees the “day off” in commemoration of Dr. King’s birthday. But as you read the quote above, you realize that Dr. King believed that the efforts around basic human rights could never take a holiday. As a result, we consider Dr. King’s birthday as a “day on;” a day to take action; a day to recognize that progress is not automatic. [emph. mine]

Throughout many of our offices this Monday, we will be hosting talented high school students from our local markets. The intent of these gatherings is to introduce these students to the vast array of career opportunities that are available to them, not just in our profession, but in the business world in general. In keeping with Dr. King’s passion for equal opportunity, I believe this is a fitting tribute to his work.

I’ll leave you with one final quote from Dr. King; “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Equal rights cannot be taken for granted, either personally or collectively as a Firm. I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on the significance of this holiday and find some way to recommit to the equality and respect for all individuals that Dr. King talked about so many years ago.

Regards, [NAME DELETED]

I, for one, am enjoying my “day on” thoroughly, thank you very much.