By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — People from a variety of ethnic backgrounds gathered at the chapel, Jan. 16, to honor the man who played a significant role in the fight for equality.
The 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service was held just days before the Jan. 21 holiday and one day after what would have been King’s 84th birthday.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Joan Johnson was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
“Today we are here to remember, celebrate and act. Remember his work and legacy. Celebrate his birthday and how far we’ve come as a nation. Act by becoming involved to continue his work,” Johnson said.
On Aug. 28, 1963, King gave what would become one of the most famous speeches in American history — “I Have a Dream.”
Johnson said the speech proceeded the famous March on Washington. “This was a peaceful demonstration with over 250,000 people in attendance, a quarter of them white,” she said.
King’s speech, the final speech of the day, was only supposed to be four minutes, but it lasted 16.
“Dr. King started by saying that 100 years ago President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves. But yet 100 years later the Negro was still not free. The Negro was still facing segregation, discrimination, and living in poverty in a world filled with so much prosperity,” Johnson said. “He said the sense of urgency was now for America to make good on the promises of democracy for all of God’s children. Dr. King continued on saying that 1963 was not the end but the beginning of the Negro’s discontentment.”
Johnson said despite the discontentment in the world, King did not support hatred, but encouraged dignity and discipline.
“Today we have a reason to celebrate. Let’s celebrate everything Dr. King stood and died for. Although we have a ways to go, we have to celebrate the progress we’ve made,” Johnson said. “As you look around this chapel, you will see people of all ethnic backgrounds. It’s because of Dr. King’s dream that we are able to sit here together to honor him.”
Johnson closed her speech by saying, “Jan. 21 is the official national holiday but I believe that Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech challenged us to act by doing good work for equality and justice every day.”
Col. Charles Arnold, 21st Mission Support Group commander, gave the closing remarks for the service. “The 21st of January is a very special day. Please, don’t just think of it as a day off. What I would ask everybody to do on the 21st of January is take a few minutes and really challenge and ask yourself, ‘Am I conducting my life in a way where I’m honoring Dr. King?’ Because I think we still have a long way to go, as an Air Force, as a country,” he said.