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DoD Hosts 17th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2002 – Americans were able to stand united after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on America because of efforts of such people as Martin Luther King Jr., Chaplain of the Coast Guard (Navy Capt.) Leroy Gilbert told the audience today

Sixth-Grader Wins MLK School Essay Contest

Sixth-grader Samantha Hewt, 12, was happy to win the DoD-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest at Washingtons John Tyler Elementary School, but she was nervous about reading the essay to a large Pentagon audience.

Still, she stepped to the podium Jan. 17 during DoDs 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast and read it flawlessly:

"Some people in the United States celebrate Dr. Kings birthday because they want to show respect for the many things he did to help all Americans, especially black Americans.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasnt just an ordinary man who became great. He had a vision about how life should be for all Americans. He was an even-tempered man because when bad things would happen to him or anyone and people wanted to fight back, Dr. King would tell them to put their weapons down. If we fight back, we will be just as bad as those who do harm to us. Our weapons must nonviolent.

"Dr. King was a courageous man. He said things in his speeches that people did not want to hear and did not agree with. He kept right on walking and talking for our civil rights.

"On Dr. Kings Day, people should do helping things in their community like serving the homeless a warm meal or giving them a blanket to stay warm. We should clean up our property, take care of our schools and obey the law. We must remember our senior citizens who have done their job and now are entitled to enjoy life.

"As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must always remember his dream. We must continue the fight for justice by making sure that people have equal opportunities in getting jobs, affordable housing, and equal treatment under the law. We must always exercise the right to vote.

"Dr. King said, 'Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.' On his day, we must remember him, celebrate his work, and make sure our actions make him proud."

at DoD's 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. annual breakfast.

The chaplain said King and others "built a foundation upon which we stand based on the principles of equality, interracial sister and brotherhood."

This year's breakfast marks the 73rd anniversary of the birth of King, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta. On Jan. 21, 2002, Americans across the nation will celebrate the national holiday honoring King's life and work. This year's national observance theme is "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On Not a Day Off!"

In keeping with his theme, "Passionate Commitment," Gilbert said people who are looking for a formula for success, fulfillment and happiness should be "passionately committed to loving others, serving others, helping others and your living shall not be in vain."

King gave him a new perspective of love, Gilbert said. For King, he continued, love is built on the biblical premise that "We are our brother's keepers.

"Dr. King said, 'Love is a transforming power that can lift a whole community to new horizons of fair play, good will and justice," the chaplain said.

"I saw this kind of love while providing pastoral care at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks," he told the gathering. "When I arrived at the Pentagon a few hours after the attack, I saw firemen, emergency and rescue workers coming out of the smoking building. Their faces were covered with inhalation gear, and their bodies donned with fire resistant uniforms."

Consequently, he couldn't tell their race or ethnicity, Gilbert said. "They were just people working together in unity to achieve a common goal. When they came out of the building and took off their masks, even in the midst of this catastrophic experience, my heart rejoiced, because I saw the words of Dr. King being fulfilled in this crisis situation.

"Dr. King had a dream of a colorblind society, and Sept. 11 was a day of a colorblind society," Gilbert said. "America stood united like it never had before. After 9/11, we could say with power, 'United we stand,' because we saw it, we felt it and experienced it."

The breakfast also highlighted sixth-grader Samantha Hewt, who read her winning essay in this year's Martin Luther King Jr. writing contest at Washington's John Tyler Elementary School. DoD personnel have a longstanding mentorship program with the school.

The gospel group, Instruments of Praise, performed musical selections.

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Related Sites:
Department of Defense Pays Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. web site

Click photo for screen-resolution imageScott Deyo of Washington Headquarters Service in the Pentagon plays the National Anthem on his trumpet during DoD's 17th Martin Luther King Jr. annual breakfast. The Pentagon event was held Jan. 17, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe gospel group Instruments of Praise perform at DoD's 17th Martin Luther King Jr. annual breakfast at the Pentagon. Singing at the event Jan. 17, 2002 were Tanya Easley (from left), Cheri Snyder, Lisa Downing, Lorrie Smith, Susan Reid, Tanya Dallas-Lewis, and Yolanda Wilson on keyboard. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid O. "Doc" Cooke, director of Washington Headquarters Service and host of DoD's 17th Martin Luther King Jr. annual breakfast at the Pentagon, poses with Samantha Hewt, who read her first place essay during. Hewt holds the plaque Cooke presented her. She also received a $100 Savings Bond. The event was held Jan. 17, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution image"Dr. King had a dream of a colorblind society, and Sept. 11 was a day of a colorblind society," Chaplain of the Coast Guard (Navy Capt.) Leroy Gilbert told diners at DoD's 17th Martin Luther King Jr. annual breakfast. The Pentagon event was held Jan. 17, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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