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Creating the Beloved Community: A Tribute to Dr. King

January 15, 2021

Delmas Whittaker, C.M., is the Maritime Division Senior Manager, Fishing and Commercial Vessels at the Port of Seattle. Delmas is a retired naval officer who served our country for 25 years in active duty. Now retired from the U.S. Navy, he continues to serve and has been working with the Port since 2008. He is the president of the Blacks in Government chapter at the Port of Seattle and is a member of the National Management Association and Military Veterans at the Port. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Fisherman’s Memorial Board and is Member At-Large for the Seafair Executive Board.

We prepare to celebrate the birthday of the legendary Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is normally a time of reflection, celebration of life, and a call to service. Unfortunately, 2020 has brought us many distractions, pain, and struggles. Personally, my heart is heavy from the events of 2020. The nation continues to struggle with the challenges of the coronavirus and deaths of over 300,000 Americans. Additionally, the senseless death of George Floyd (and others) and our continued cries for nationwide police reform. Furthermore, I am torn by the civil and political unrest at the U.S. Capitol and the images of watching American citizens storm the “People’s House.” 

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

The words of Dr. King, our “drum major,” reminds us “The greatness of man cannot be seen in the hours of comfort and convenience, but rather in moments of conflict and adversity.”  As our country sits on the edge of a significant tipping point in history, we must ask ourselves the same question Dr. King once asked an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957 —  “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?

Is the DREAM still deferred?  On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, Dr. King delivered his most memorable “I HAVE A DREAM” speech. He so eloquently said

I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream — one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”  Furthermore, he proclaimed, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

On the eve of this celebration of what would have been Dr. King’s 91st Birthday, I encourage us all to choose a path of righteousness. Let us not forget his words from the cell of a Birmingham, Alabama jail: 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

As we honor his legacy, his mission, his faith, we must remember

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

This year’s theme and call to action is “The Urgency of Creating the Beloved Community”! So many in our Port family are answering this call and making a real difference at work and in their respective communities. We are all asked to “embrace nonviolence as a lifestyle, while moving ever closer to creating the Beloved Community.”  

Today, I have chosen to share Dr. King’s words to remind us of the similarity of our past struggles. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat those failures. We must choose a different path. Let’s build our “Beloved Community.”

Happy Birthday to our Drum Major!  

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