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Continuing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every third Monday of January we take a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .and his dream of equality. This day is not only a time to celebrate the incredible legacy of the visionary civil rights activist, but also a time to reflect on the progress we have made toward his vision.

Every third Monday of January we take a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .and his dream of equality. This day is not only a time to celebrate the incredible legacy of the visionary civil rights activist, but also a time to reflect on the progress we have made toward his vision. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

“I have a dream…”

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these famous words to that crowd of over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he delivered a speech that has captivated generations since with its vision of racial equality.

As the third Monday of January approaches and we take a day to recognize and honor Dr. King and his philosophies, we must remember his dream of existing in a diverse society where the benefits of equality are enjoyed by all, regardless of race or circumstance.

As I reflect upon this, I question myself: “Why does this speech continue to resonate almost 60 years later?”

For me, it is because it captures the spirit of hope, even during difficult times, which remains as relevant as ever.

From national security concerns to winning the fight, the challenges we face today as a country are significant and the consequences of failure are dangerous. It is because of this that we need not forget Dr. King’s ideals and utilize our greatest asset – people – to its full potential.

I believe our best measure of success in the Air Force is not the war we win by fighting, but the war we prevent by defending the sky, space and cyberspace. We should be entirely dedicated to accomplishing this mission, which means judging people through an objective and professional lens. What should matter is their contributions to the strength of the team. In other words, valuing diversity promotes innovation and thus, strengthens the force.

As Gen. David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force once said, “Recruiting and retaining diverse Airmen cultivates innovation. Different people make the best teams when integrated purposefully together.”

Although this may sound like leadership talk, the correlation between diversity and victory is one that has been proven true throughout Air Force history.

Whether we talk about the Tuskegee Airmen, the Women Airforce Service Pilots or the Native American Code Talkers, the contributions of minorities have been pivotal to the Air Force becoming the world’s greatest.

Striving to become more diverse isn’t just the right thing to do – it is our collective intelligence and experiences coming together to become the most effective force we can be. Like many of our senior leaders like to say, “Diversity is a force multiplier.” I truly believe in this. We must do this together – all ranks, ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not only a time to celebrate the incredible legacy of the visionary civil rights activist, but also a time to reflect on the progress we have made toward his vision. The optimism of Dr. King’s dream is a reminder that there is always progress to be made, and to always push for better and challenge injustices.

Are we judging others by the content of their character?

“Everybody can be great...because anybody 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.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.