MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary leader that made a significant impact across the globe. He shared a message of hope, peace, and unity. His selfless sacrifice became a beacon of light shining freedom and justice for generations to come. Leveraging the heartfelt passion within his words, Dr. King was able to awaken our nation’s better angels, and refocus the world through a forward thinking vision of America. His vision, his dream for America, transcended strife and civil discourse to establish a blueprint for a better society.
The Constitution and Declaration of Independence promised all men to be equal; however, people of color did not enjoy such freedoms. Systematic oppression and targeted violence through civil unrest were challenges to equality. Amidst harsh conditions, Dr. King dedicated his entire life to advancing the ideal of freedom, justice and equality for all. He believed that we had more things in common to unite, than factors that could seek to divide.
Dr. King’s most famous speech “I have a Dream,” resonates with many. Academic circles often study how this speech conveyed a powerful message of compassion and love for humanity. Through this speech, he motivated attitudes and actions of an entire generation to unite, achieving an impossible goal.
“Let Freedom Ring” was Dr. King’s call for change, and what a change he inspired.
Let freedom ring, through the Civil Rights acts of 1964, outlawing discrimination and requiring equal access to all.
Let freedom ring, through the Fair Housing Act of 1968, extending protections for people of color to rent and sell homes.
Let freedom ring, through the Air Force of 1973, which demonstrating diversity and inclusion by selecting our first African-American Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, Thomas N. Barnes
Let freedom ring, though the United States of America of 2008, for exemplifying a force for change through electing our African-American Black President, the Honorable Barack Hussein Obama.
Let freedom ring, through the Air Force of 2020, leading from the front by selecting our first African-American Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, and our first female Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass.
Let freedom ring, through our Senate and Congress working to nominate our first African-American Secretary of Defense, Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin, with confirmation hearings taking place during Jan. 2021.
As we pause to reflect on the legacy of Dr. King, I cannot help but be proud of all the progress we have made, and how far we have come over 50 years. We have made great progress, but I can also recognize we are not perfect, and there is work that yet remains. Over the last year, we faced the challenge of racial disparity in our policing system, our military, a global pandemic, and even an assault against our Republic. Nevertheless, we are a resilient force.
Seeing Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision for America through the eyes of an American Airman makes me especially proud to serve. One of my favorite Dr. King quotes, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
To me, the United States Air Force is the closest thing we have to the realization of Dr. King’s Vision. In spite of our flaws, we demonstrate the courage and compassion to admit our shortcomings, and strive to overcome. We as Airmen, unite around a common purpose, our core values and our Profession of Arms. No matter our race, color, creed or sexual orientation, we are all brothers and sisters.
We as Airman have never failed to rise to the occasion when asked to do so; as a result, our Air Force has become better, faster, safer, and smarter. To put it simply, we are a more agile force for freedom and democracy around the world.
Through his bravery and sacrifice, Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was the catalyst for change throughout our nation. As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, please stand with me and follow his example to be a catalyst for change.