On this 26th observance of Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday, the question asked each year is repeated: Has the dream been fulfilled?

While the answer for many people would clearly be no, the gains that have been made since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out his vision for a better world in his 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech continue to offer both hope and a challenge.

Born Jan. 15, 1929, King would have turned 82 on Saturday. His life was cut short by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968, while King was in Memphis, Tenn., to march with striking sanitation workers.

King had big dreams for this country - at a time when African Americans were denied even basic rights. He envisioned a time when people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

But that dream too often remains just that - a dream. This country has not yet fully arrived where King wanted it to be. Making his dream a reality will take more hard work by those who want to see an America devoid of all forms of discrimination.

The "post-racial" era that many optimistically believed would begin with the election of Barack Obama as the first black president remains elusive.

Indeed, the cultural divide among racial groups continues to be seen within America's schools, churches, and neighborhoods. Blacks, Latinos and other minorities still face some of the same prejudices King sought to change.

From poverty levels to prison incarceration rates, African Americans are disproportionately represented. Black students in Philadelphia and other cities are too often victims of bad schools.

King said, "The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity." Even with a growing middle class, those words still ring true for too many today.

Today's King Day observances provide an opportunity for those who believe in his dream to not only reflect on the meaning of the holiday but also more fully embrace his vision for freedom, equality, and justice.

This is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. That mission is nowhere embraced as much as it is in the Philadelphia region, where a record 75,000 volunteers are expected to participate in community-service projects in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

For participants, today is not a day off from work or school. Many will further honor King's memory by resolving to serve their neighbors with good deeds throughout the year.

King also once said, "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."

So, let's get busy in service.