KEYPORT, Wash. – Sailors and staff from Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport gathered at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, WA, Jan. 16 to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one day after what would have been his 90th birthday.
The ceremony opened with a video clip of Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial delivering his most famous speech. "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," echoed throughout the museum auditorium while Dr. King’s larger-than-life image looked across the audience from the screen.
According to Capt. Jon H. Moretty, NUWC Division, Keyport’s commanding officer, the holiday honoring Dr. King was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Eleven years later President Bill Clinton would sign the 1994 Martin Luther King Day of Service Act, which encourages Americans to spend the holiday volunteering in their communities.
Known today as “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” Moretty said the spirit of community support was lived out by Dr. King throughout his life.
“The power of Dr. King’s achievement was in his willingness to change the status quo, to give a voice to those who were silent, and to show in both a clear and articulated message as well as through assembled numbers that change was necessary,” Moretty said.
The ceremony featured a performance by Mark Peterson of Living Voices, a group that brings history to life by combining dramatic solo performances with archival footage and sound.
Peterson, now in his third season working with Living Voices, finds it a “tremendous honor” to be able to enrich the tapestry of historical stories by providing an inside look at events through the use of a composite character.
Peterson said the Civil Rights Movement was made up largely of ordinary people.
“These were people who cared and needed to fight for it,” Peterson said. “They got together and did it.”
Peterson’s performance took the audience through his character’s years in high school and college as he worked towards the goal of civil equality. The performance ended with his character running for elected office, and was met with a standing ovation.
Tracy Darlene Harris, NUWC Division, Keyport’s Special Emphasis Program Manager for the Black Employment Program, discussed the impact and importance of Dr. King’s legacy in modern America.
“We observe Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles,” said Harris. “Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, for his words to be credible, he had to walk the walk.”
According to Harris Dr. King went to prison no less than 29 times in pursuit of his dream of freedom and equality. Despite these setbacks, he continued to organize, march, speak out, and inspire the nation to strive forward towards greater equality.
“Dr. King dreamed of a color blind society and championed racial justice and equality,” Harris said. King taught the nation to “fight injustice, through the power of love and through forgiveness of others, and to defuse violent disputes through nonviolence.”
Cmdr. Deborah White, an aerospace experimental psychologist who is studying human systems integration at NUWC Division, Keyport, was grateful for the chance to attend the program. White believes NUWC Division, Keyport places a high priority on using its diverse array of programs like this to foster a sense of family and inclusiveness among its members.
“You feel like there’s something in the information useful and pertinent to your life,” White said. This, in turn, makes it easier to following Dr. King’s example by seeing out and promoting positive change in the community.
King’s 39 years left an enduring and positive legacy Moretty said. He demonstrated the power of one person to change the world.
“Today we reflect on how much he accomplished in such a brief period of time, and how much better our nation and world is because of his dream,” said Moretty. “We all have this power within us for positive action.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and the “A Day On, Not a Day Off” day of service will be observed this year on Jan. 21.