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Service helps keep Kings’ dream alive at local bases

POULSBO — Service to one another, to one’s country and to the idea of diversity is the best way to keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy alive, speakers this week at Keyport asserted.

Echoing the national theme for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on ... not a day off,” the 22nd annual Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport ceremony honoring King Jan. 15 left the audience with a challenge for the upcoming holiday.

“Today, let’s remember and celebrate and on Monday, in your own way, let’s act and do so even beyond that one day,” said Rear Admiral Melvin G. Williams Jr., Commander of Subase Bangor’s Submarine Group Nine.

Thursday’s event was sponsored by the Keyport Workforce Diversity Council. The ceremony, which marked the eighth year the United States has officially celebrated King’s birthday as a national holiday, honored not only King but how his life’s work lives on in the U.S. military.

“We need to remember that it’s how we treat one another and the immeasurable freedoms we enjoy that make this country great,” said Daniel J. Looney, Commander of NUWC Division, Keyport. “We all need to ensure that the dream stays alive because if the dream were to die, what’s the sense in waking up?”

Williams commented that to him, service to his country was the best way he’d found to act on King’s legacy on a daily basis. But he also suggested three other ways to serve; get involved with youth; assist young people with their formal education; and consider setting a positive example of basic human kindness.

“(King) really believed in service and one of the things he said in this regard is that service is the soul’s highest purpose, the key to happiness and to God,” Williams said.

Keynote was John H. James Jr., executive director for Undersea Warfare Submarine Directorate at Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. James is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Organization of Blacks in Government and takes part in minority recruiting within the civilian work force. James said he has also been lucky enough in his life to have met some of King’s contemporaries, including Andrew Young. Through talking with folks who were actually part of the civil rights movement, and watching film footage from the time period, James said he’s come to realize that King, who was only 26 when he began his fight, was very young and very vulnerable but made great strides.

“I find it very interesting to get the juxtaposition of someone so great but so human and still moving forward ... it makes you think, ‘What have I done to add to that?’” James commented. “So that kind of brings me to my job, what I do.”

The armed forces, James said, exemplify King’s dream because of the immense amount of diversity apparent in all ranks and files. He challenged the audience, many of whom work at Keyport, to be mindful of the positive marks each and every one of them can make as pieces of the whole.

“You need to ask yourselves ‘what are my contributions to the Navy?’ It is vitally important that you do the same. It is vitally important that you look at the young people coming up,” he commented.

Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent was among the dignitaries who attended Thursday’s ceremony. She said she was marking the third year attending Keyport’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event and appreciated James’ message.

“I was inspired by Mr. James, he really brought his comments into the everyday lives of people on this base,” Lent commented. “I’m speaking on Monday for our county observance of the holiday and there are parts of that I’d like to bring into my remarks, as well.”

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