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OPINION: thumbs up/thumbs

While we love the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been officially observed in all 50 states since 2000 — after being signed into law by President Reagan in 1983 — we bemoan the fact that so many of the dreams King talked about 50-plus years ago have yet to become reality.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1964, King said the following: "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."

Thumbs up to Mr. King, but thumbs down to a world that often feels like it's moving backward in terms of civil rights. And while we're at it, why can't teachers in Carlton County have the day off to celebrate MLK Jr., too? Is it not an important enough holiday for everyone to get the day off?

Thumbs up to Ms. Christmas, otherwise known as Paula Maki. The Cloquet woman, who is singularly focused on bringing Christmas gifts to adults living in foster homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, has turned her Christmas nonprofit into a year-around effort that just keeps growing and growing. This year, she happily reported, despite having two fewer "giving trees," she somehow got more donations and a lot more gifts to people who might not have a family sending them gifts over the holidays.

Maki, a Christian, compared it to the Biblical story of the loaves and fishes.

"God always supplies," she said. "God and a few generous people. I always go beyond my limits and reach more people.

Although her health is failing, Maki perseveres, collecting and wrapping gifts. The giving brings joy to her and the people opening the gifts. May Ms. Christmas continue in her mission for many years to come.

Thumbs down to the decaying steps at the Carlton County Historical Society. The Shaw Memorial building was once a proud library — a center of learning for early lumbermen and others — and is now a proud home of many historical artifacts and records for our area. It's a real shame to see the steps leading up to the front door halfway roped off, because they are falling apart and unsafe. One would think that either the county, which owns the building, or a member of the community at large could find a way to make repairs. And if the steps are crumbling, then what unseen repairs are also being delayed? How ironic that we can't even find it in ourselves to maintain the historic building and steps that are home to our own history.

Thumbs up to a wider discussion regarding the Ten Commandments monument hit by a pickup truck in December. Although City Attorney Frank Yetka is very likely correct in his assessment that the city would probably win a court case over the monument and its placement on public property since it was donated by the Eagles Club in the 1950s. It still makes one wonder if the city of Cloquet believes in the First Amendment's establishment clause (for the United States Constitution), which requires government "neutrality" toward religion. We believe adding monuments containing other religious guidelines, such as the Buddhist eightfold path or the five pillars of Islam, would be great. So would moving the Ten Commandments monument to a church or other private or nonprofit property.

What do you think, Pine Journal readers?

Jana Peterson

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