I look forward to celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. every January for several reasons. Least important is the fact that it is the last long weekend for teacher and students to enjoy before spring break.

The main reason I like the holiday so much is that I can relate to the late civil rights leader even though I have never been denied anything due to the color of my skin.

The thing I admire most about King is the fact that he, like me, was a troublemaker. He saw a bad situation and worked his hardest to turn things around.

As a writer, I consider his "I Have a Dream" speech to be a work of art. It reads like a poem and was transformed into a historical moment in the civil rights movement when delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

With that speech, King made it inescapably clear that all American citizens were not being treated equally. The millions of people who were willing to look the other way when someone was mistreated due to the color of his skin no longer had an excuse to do so.

He so eloquently told us in that famous speech that our country was not living up to the expectations that had been so carefully set up by the very people who founded it.

After he shared that dream, there was no going back to the way things were, not ever.

I received the label "troublemaker" long before I entered school and then had it reinforced by various teachers throughout my academic career. The older I got, the more I embraced the label as something I could use to my advantage.

My writing skills led me to journalism, where I quickly latched onto the idea that the words I wrote could, like those of King, change the world.

If I saw injustice in the world, all I had to do was use my right to freedom of expression and tell others about it, I believed. Then somebody would have to do something to correct whatever evil I had exposed.

By the time I graduated from college, I had figured out the perfect way to cause trouble, have a career and help others at the same time, or so I thought. Then I realized how hard it was to find a job as a reporter, especially once I left my home base of North Carolina to begin following a Marine around the globe.

Instead of changing the world, I ended up writing local sports stories and commercials for a radio station. Then came many years of changing diapers with no time to sit down at a keyboard and type out my thoughts.

Soon after that last dirty diaper went into the trash, I came up with the idea of writing this newspaper column to bring some humor to the chaotic lifestyle of trying to raise a family while married to someone in the military.

I was honestly too exhausted to cause any trouble and realized that Stars and Stripes was not the right forum in which to do that anyway. I just figured there were a lot of moms out there who, like me, were about to pull their own hair out at the thought of moving again.

Surely, after reading about my mishaps with Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie, others would feel less alone. Raising a family far away from family and friends is what is expected of military moms, but that does not make it any easier.

Now that I have entered the field of special education, I am beginning to feel that familiar tug to cause trouble again. I want to help the children I teach by writing about the challenges they face in getting an education.

I’m not sure how I am going to do it or when I am going to find time … maybe I will start over this long weekend.

Here’s to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of history’s greatest troublemakers.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at or visit her Web site at

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