National Day of Service


As Martin Luther King Jr. Day draws near, on Monday, January 16, Americans will celebrate the birth of this influential civil rights leader. In 1986, MLK Day was declared a National Day of Service. On this day, people are encouraged to build their communities, bridge barriers, and solve social problems, moving closer to a "Beloved Community."

We at the Academy of Aquatic Physical Therapy would like to suggest some ways that our members can celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday with an aquatic twist. 

Jeff Wiltse makes several interesting observations about pools and American society in his book: Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America (2007, The University of North Carolina Press). Initially, public pools were divided into classes, genders, and generational lines, and during the 1920s and 1930s, they were segregated based on race. During the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson made "anti-poverty" grants available to fund swimming pools for disadvantaged youth nationwide (p187).

Today, Americans of all genders, races, ages, and socioeconomic statuses share public swimming pools. When people change into their swimsuits, Mr. Wiltse observes that it is difficult to discern who is wealthy, poor, educated, and uneducated. Nowadays, the issue is who can safely enter a pool and swim. Some Americans have never used a public pool or learned how to navigate a body of water safely. Some school districts cannot afford a swimming pool to teach their students how to swim, and swimming lessons are not affordable for all families.

Aquatic therapists have a wide range of methods at their disposal for promoting safety awareness and improving socioeconomic status through education.

Having access to a pool is an excellent opportunity to teach water safety. During the workshop, attendees can learn about safe boating, the use of life vests, and how to rescue someone submerged without entering the water themselves.

In the United States, drowning is a leading cause of death for children, with an average of 11 drownings occurring everyday ( If you have a pool, you might consider inviting local children to a class trip and even inviting them to get in the water. Take a look at the students or individuals around you. Could a short course on water safety benefit a girls' or boys' club with a pool?

As a physical therapist, you have the opportunity to promote your profession to middle school, high school, and college students. Meet with swimmers from a swim team who may not be aware of aquatic physical therapy as a profession. Why not work with a counselor to present a visual presentation of the aquatic PT profession if you cannot invite students to your pool? The most effective way to escape poverty is through education, and you can open doors to professions some students may never have imagined.

Don't let Martin Luther King Day 2023 pass you by without doing something that would have been appreciated by the famous civil rights leader. Your profession enables you to demonstrate that the joys of being in water can transcend economic, racial, gender, and any other unnecessary barriers that prevent us from becoming a united nation.



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