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NEWS | Jan. 20, 2021

BAMC celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with virtual presentation

By Lori Newman Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

Brooke Army Medical Center honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a live virtual presentation on BAMC’s Facebook page Jan. 14.

The Baptist minister and activist became the spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. He is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

The national recurring theme of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off!” It calls upon the American people to engage in public service and promote peaceful social change.

 “Dr. King was a servant of humanity who lived a life dedicated to the service of others,” said Army Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby, BAMC commanding general. “We owe Dr. King and so many others who spearheaded the civil rights movement a tremendous debt of gratitude. If it were not for their unwavering commitment, our nation and our world might be a much different place; and one we might not want for our children and grandchildren.”

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Kenneth Kemp, BAMC pulmonary and critical care medicine physician and ordained Baptist minister, was the keynote speaker for the event.

Kemp said King’s life epitomized service, honor and sacrifice. “The work of Dr. King was a work that lifted all of America, particularly the marginalized, disenfranchised, and systematically demoralized of this nation.”

The son of a prominent pastor in Atlanta, King was afforded a first-class education, graduating from Morehouse College when he was just 19 years old and afterward Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. King earned a Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University at the age of 26 and entered his first pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was not yet 27 when he became a leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and subsequently rose to prominence internationally as the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

“Dr. King showed us that agape love is the type of love that one shows for human dignity,” Kemp said. “It is an unconditional love that is above romantic, family, friendly, or even self-love. Agape is that kind of love that says I will respect you as a human being in all circumstances, even if I don’t like what you do. With agape love, Dr. King and his constituents marched throughout the nation advocating for freedom, justice and peace.” 

Kemp said he was only 5 years old when King was assassinated. “I was too young to remember the deep, dark grief and anger that permeated the nation afterward. However, I can remember how in the 1970s and the early 1980s, we were inspired by what he did and we wanted to be like him.

“I can honestly say that he has been one of the most influential characters of my life,” Kemp said. “I have tried to emulate his scholarship, model his love, attain his lofty heights in oratory, and come close to his selflessness in sacrifice. Sadly, I have come up short in most of those endeavors, but his life is a shining light in the distance that still gives aspirational direction to my journey. He was not perfect. He was not divine. Yet, his life and the lives of others like him have inspired me to be better.”

Kemp quoted King saying, “Returning violence for violence, multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

He also touched on recent events in our country including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and rioting at the nation’s Capitol.

“We have discovered that while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go,” Kemp said. “Given that unalterable reality, let us use the example of Dr. King and learn again to unite, to heal, and to rebuild through love.”

BAMC Command Sgt. Maj. Thurman Reynolds closed the presentation by thanking Kemp for his inspiring words.

“We should all strive to emulate what Dr. King stood for, working together to drive out the darkness of hate with the light of love,” Reynolds said.