President Donald Trump ignored his own calls for Americans to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with “acts of civic work and community service.”
Trump was not scheduled to partake in any service projects on the federal holiday he and every other US president have designated as a “day of service” since 1994.
Instead, he arrived Monday morning at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The only event on the public schedule released daily by the White House is the flight that will take him back to Washington in the afternoon.
Trump’s noticeably blank public schedule Monday comes as he continued to beat back accusations of racism for referring to countries in Africa as “shithole countries” and rejecting immigration from the African continent and Haiti in favor of immigrants from Norway during a meeting with lawmakers. His reported comments were confirmed by both a Republican senator and Democratic senator present, but Trump has denied making the disparaging remarks.
Trump rejected the criticism on Sunday night, telling reporters that he is the “least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
Trump marked the holiday celebrating the civil rights icon at the White House Friday where he signed the federal holiday proclamation in a ceremony alongside King’s nephew, a dozen of his black political supporters and staffers, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the most-senior black member of his Cabinet. Carson was scheduled to attend a reception at a historic fire station in Atlanta alongside King’s niece, Alveda King.
Trump praised King’s role in the civil rights movement before encouraging “all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King’s extraordinary life — and it was extraordinary indeed — and his great legacy.”
There was no indication Monday morning that Trump would heed that call. A White House spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on whether Trump had any impromptu plans to take part in a community service project. The first lady’s office also did not return a request for comment asking whether Melania Trump had any such plans.
The White House on Monday did release a video message in which Trump marked the federal holiday and extolled King’s legacy and Trump retweeted the video.
The first lady marked the day in a tweet Monday morning: “Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & his service to this great country. I am honored to be First Lady of a nation that continually strives for equality & justice for all.”
Day of service
President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law in 1983 making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday and the holiday was first observed in 1986.
US presidents have typically observed the holiday publicly, making remarks or attending events honoring the day. Each president since Reagan has signed a proclamation declaring Martin Luther King Jr. day a federal holiday, and in 1994 the holiday was rededicated in an act of Congress as a “day of service.”
The last three presidents have often taken part in service projects to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 2001, President Bill Clinton joined AmeriCorps members to help repair and paint a senior center in Washington. In 2007, President George W. Bush joined volunteers at a local high school who were sending postcards to victims of Hurricane Katrina. For the last Martin Luther King Jr. Day of his presidency, President Barack Obama helped students at a local elementary school build planters and plant vegetables for an “MLK Garden” at the school.
The projects were just some that the three presidents took part in to mark the holiday during their times in office.