Today, we pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a federal holiday that is also a national day of service, and I hope that all Americans will find ways today to bring our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” for which he worked.
We still have a lot of work to do to achieve that community … to banish racism, to fight poverty, to break down barriers, to defend our democracy, and to come together in the common cause of bringing our republic closer to its founding promise.
That task belongs to all of us, of course, in or out of uniform. As Dr. King preached, we are all “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” and “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
We understand that mindset very well here in the Department of Defense, as it is the very essence of teamwork. We strive every day to serve this country with honor and integrity, and with a true sense of the contributions that all of us give to the task, no matter where we come from or how we worship.
We are a team whose strength derives directly from our diversity. But we understand we cannot take that diversity for granted. We must never stop trying to make sure everyone who serves may do so free of hate, discrimination and fear.
The dignity and discipline of Dr. King should stand as an example to us all, then. Let us remember that he, too, led in troubled times. And in our own difficult days, we can draw strength and inspiration from his leadership and his labor. We can, as he did, never stop serving and never stop trying to forge a better future for ourselves and for our children.
I thank you all for your service on this and every other day of the year.