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King’s Dream Offers Food for Thought

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joined more than 160 Defense Department personnel and guests this morning at the Pentagon's executive dining room here for the the 22nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast.

“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” Gates said, quoting the famed “I Have a Dream” speech Dr. King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all God’s children.”

Gates said the U.S. military embodies the vision King articulated more than 40 years ago. The Defense Department breakfast remembrance of King's legacy began in 1986, the year President Regan declared the third Monday in January a national holiday in his honor.

“For decades, these brave men and women have set an example by building a culture that strives not to differentiate between black, white or any other race or creed,” Gates said. “Today they are making Dr. King’s dream more universal and more powerful than even he might have imagined.”

The keynote speaker, National Director of the Department of Labor’s Job Corps, Dr. Esther R. Johnson, described King as a “warrior for peace and a drum major for justice.”

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his life, his work, epitomizes tireless commitment and love for his fellow man,” Johnson said. “He devoted his life in the crusade for equality for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the racially oppressed … and we must put his legacy into action.”

As part of the ceremonial events, the Office of the Secretary of Defense sponsored an essay contest at John Tyler Elementary School here, inviting each of the 235 students to share the influence Dr. King has had on their lives and compete for a $100 savings bond.

For the second consecutive year, Kylend Adams, a sixth-grader at the school, was on hand to receive his winnings and read his evocative essay.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires me to be proud to be black,” Adams said. “Even though he died in 1968, he is still with us today. The way he led, I will follow; the path he laid down, I will walk on.”

The breakfast closed with a soulful performance by gospel quartet Sounds of New Birth, which sang at the breakfast for the third consecutive year.

Kim Gordon, one of the gospel group members, called King’s dream and courage inspirational.

“He had the courage to press on and stand up for what he believed in,” Gordon said, “to make a better future for African Americans.”

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