MLK Day observance: Build a ‘beloved community’, use a sense of urgency

A luncheon honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 21 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base featured as its guest speaker a retired former commander of Air Force Materiel Command.

Hosted by Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, the humanitarian awards luncheon carried the theme, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off!”, with more than 250 people in attendance.

Sherman “welcomed home” keynote speaker retired Gen. Lester Lyles, who also served as vice chief of staff of the Air Force from 1999-2000 and commanded AFMC from 2000 to 2003.

Lyles, born and raised in Washington, D.C., began his speech by recounting how as a 17 year old, he attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, led by King on Aug. 28, 1963. King’s speech that day is often remembered as his “I Have a Dream” speech.

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“It was an emotional, significant event in my life,” Lyles said. “I began to understand then how important civil rights and Dr. King were to our nation.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change – the King Center – in Atlanta had set the theme for the 2020 King holiday observance as “King 2020, The Beloved Community: The Fierce Urgency of Now.” Lyles explored what a beloved community is, defining it as working together to create the best possible community for everyone and how important continuing to push for civil rights is.

“I dare say everyone here can admit that we’ve achieved a lot in terms of our civil rights goals and some of the dreams and visions of Dr. King, but I don’t think anybody would argue with me that we still have a lot to do,” Lyles said. “There are a lot of things that even in this year 2020 and certainly the last year, 2019, reminded us that there is more to be done.”

Lyles detailed growing racial and political divisiveness in the nation and the need for companies to develop more environmental, social and governance awareness.

He told the audience that his favorite King quote is this: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

As he closed, Lyles asked people to remember this year’s King Center theme and said, “You are already part of a beloved community – the community here on Wright-Patterson, the community around Dayton, the community around the Miami Valley and the community of our United States Air Force. I hope that each one of you, in all that you do, will remember the fierce urgency of now and will try and strive always to make the community even better.”

Following the keynote address, the results of an essay contest for area schoolchildren, organized by the event committee, were announced. Two students from Cedarville High School, Alyssa Cooley and Trenton King, won $500 scholarships from the Greater Dayton Chapter of Blacks in Government and the Wright-Patterson AFB Rising 6.

2020 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Awards

Sherman awarded the following for their volunteer efforts, which contributed to the improvement of the community and honored King’s legacy:

• Company Grade Officer: 1st Lt. Toya Jennings, National Air and Space Intelligence Center

• Junior Enlisted: Tech. Sgt. Wesley McCool, 88th Medical Group

• Junior Enlisted: Airman 1st Class Morgan Reid, 88th Operations Support Squadron

• Civilian: Joyce Coutee, NASIC

• Small Team: Internal Medicine Feci, 711th Human Performance Wing, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Air Force Research Laboratory

• Large Team: Air Force Institute of Technology’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, Air University Detachment 1

Award nominees included: 1st Lt. Malia Stephens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center; 2nd Lt. Nathan Gale, AFIT; Tech. Sgt. Jillian Salazar, 88 MDG; Tech. Sgt. Andrew Dailey, USAFSAM; Staff Sgt. Kathryn MacKinney, 88 MDG; Senior Airman Lawrence Onochie, 88 MDG; Airman 1st Class Logan Sexton, 88th Communications Squadron; Vincent Richardson, AFIT; and Heidi Wilkin, AFRL.

Tech. Sgt. Kelcey McDonald, who chaired the event’s committee, and committee members were recognized by Kevin Simmons, Affirmative Employment Program manager.

Sherman congratulated all awards nominees for their support of the local community and thanked all those responsible for the event.

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