AGANA HEIGHTS, Guam (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Guam and U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) Diversity Committees co-sponsored a ceremony in the hospital's atrium Jan. 16 to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose emphasis on words, instead of violence impacted civil rights and equality.
Twenty years after King's, "I Have a Dream" speech -- the tears of fellow Sailors proved to Capt. Andy Anderson, NBG commanding officer and special guest speaker at the event, the impact King had concerning civil rights. King believed civil rights allows people to believe in themselves and in their abilities which further provides them the tools to succeed.
In 1982, Anderson was the only African American air crewman out of 300 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62). During those days, rank was not worn on one's collar, and although Anderson did not feel his achievement was significant, fellow African American Sailors would often walk up to him to shake his hand with tears in their eyes and tell him how proud it made them feel to see him in his flight suit.
Anderson, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, was 5 years old when King was assassinated, something he said, that will stick with him forever. This is because it was the first time he saw fear in the eyes of his grandfather of whom he greatly admired.
"I am here today to tell you, while we can never forget-- the world has changed, this nation has changed ... on this day we pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all those who had the courage to speak out for our civil rights and equality so we can gather in unity, regardless of race, creed, or gender," Anderson said.
During the event, the USNH Guam choir sang song selections from the civil rights era. Other guest speakers included the hospital's Health Promotions Manager Luis Martinez and Lt. Cmdr. Cedric West, a nurse who works in the hospital's surgical department. A reception was held following the ceremony.
Although Jan. 20, the birth date of King, is a federal holiday, in 1994 Congress declared it a national day of service calling it "A Day On, Not a Day Off." King believed acts of service were a great equalizer and Americans across the nation are encouraged to celebrate the day through selfless acts of kindness and service.
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