DoD Honors Life, Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The words and actions of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. changed a nation and resonate to this day with inclusiveness, equality and acts of service, speakers at the Pentagon’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance noted today.

“Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared some very powerful words up at the National Cathedral,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan told the gathering at the Pentagon auditorium.

Those words, Shanahan said, are: “We are all tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”

Shanahan said those were very powerful words for the time and powerful words for today. He lauded King’s work and legacy and said he is grateful to work at the Pentagon, where inclusiveness and cohesion are standard.

Obligation to Service

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, the first African-American female major general in the Army Reserve, delivered the keynote speech.

The federal holiday honoring King, which falls on the third Monday in January, should be a national day of service, she said. The day can also be a springboard for a commitment to serve others every day of the year, she added.

Service members and civil servants already are committed to service, she said, and can challenge others to serve their communities.

“We need to leverage our existing talents, because that is part of our obligation to observe and commemorate Dr. King’s legacy and his service,” she said, noting that she was able to succeed because of the work of King and others who paved the way.

King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

‘Tremendous and Powerful Impact’

“This is our 34th MLK event,” Michael L. Rhodes, the Defense Department’s director of administration and management, said. The first Defense Department event was in 1985, he noted, a year before the federal holiday was observed.

Today’s event commemorates and reflects upon King, Rhodes said, a man “taken from us just shortly after his 39th birthday, but in those 39 years, what a tremendous and powerful impact he did have.”

Rhodes added: “He truly helped lead a change in this nation — a change that is still working and taking place today.”

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)