HomeNewsArticle Display

MLK observance: Breaking barriers then, now

Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, assistant vice chief of staff and director, Air Staff, speaks at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance in the Pentagon Auditorium, Washington, D.C. Jan 25, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, assistant vice chief of staff and director, Air Staff, speaks at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance in the Pentagon Auditorium, Washington, D.C. Jan 25, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, the assistant vice chief of staff and director of staff, was the keynote speaker for this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance at the Pentagon, Jan. 25, 2017.

Joining her in addressing the standing-room-only audience were Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Michael Rhodes, director of administration, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer.

In his first public address in the Pentagon since becoming secretary of defense, Mattis shared, “Our armed forces are stronger today because of the perseverance of Dr. King and so many others in this country who have fought for civil rights and equality for all.”

Harris reflected on growing up as an Air Force dependent and the impact King’s life and work had on her and recalled the reactions from those around her when he was assassinated in 1968

“Although even then I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of the man he was, what I witnessed from my parents, from our friends, from the television coverage, was the emotion of extreme sorrow and grief,” Harris said. “In life and death, Dr. King was a catalyst for change. Righteousness prevailed, and his legacy was forever woven into the fabric of who we all are today. … While he was a man fighting for justice and equality among all races and all our glorious skin colors, the traits he lived by were colorless.”

Harris described how King set the example of how we can all selflessly serve our fellow Americans and change our communities for the better.

“He shows us that the commitment and character of the few can alter the course of history of the many,” she said.

She went on to describe similarities between King’s teachings and changes in Air Force culture over the years.

It starts with the words “you can’t, or it can’t be done” she described. If it’s said that someone can’t be who they want to be, or do something they want to do, “it provokes a powerful response that says ‘yes, we can; we can break that barrier.’”

She elaborated that the Air Force takes pride in breaking barriers, from missions such as air and space to cultures such as race and gender.

“Many of these barriers were broken in response to ‘you can’t;’ it started because ‘you can’t’ is incendiary – it’s like the fuel that powers our jets and our rockets and our innovative spirits … what evolves are bold and innovative ways to make change and solve problems.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Help us jump into a new week by captioning this #USAFPhoto! https://t.co/ClULiNzllT
.@DMAFB's Propulsion back shop pushes forward to reach a goal not seen in years. https://t.co/xJXi3rw0FY https://t.co/tEHSGV84JS
Check out this view of a #USAF #F35 from @HAFB after being refueled by a #KC10 Extender from @jointbasemdl, over Te… https://t.co/ovZwFG9Iju
#AirForce Master Sgt. Patrick McKenna loves being able to work with his hands. Learn about this crew chief's story… https://t.co/DNoiYcC2tH
Four hearts, one soul: Family builds bond through love for horse. #Airmen #AirForce @USAF_ACC @JBLEnewshttps://t.co/UCbD4tfIbE
How do you get supplies and aid to remote islands? With an air-bridge of course! @AndersenAFBGuam #Airmen work w/… https://t.co/zEUfMyE4P6
An #F16 receives fuel from a #KC135 assigned to the 28th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron in support of Oper… https://t.co/CYG4ee8bo1
#ICYMI: #AirForce Vice Chief of Staff delivers remarks during an AFA seminar. https://t.co/gYT3UMPmtr https://t.co/0tr3D1RjfQ
A #USAF aircrew performed airdrop operations from a #C130 Hercules assigned to the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squa… https://t.co/MfbkuySF8a
.@KunsanAirBase and 38th Fighter Group strengthen alliance through US-ROKAF Friendship Day. https://t.co/tdybfYWs8a https://t.co/IwGAM9yima
A #USAF #F16 receives fuel from a #KC135 w/the 28th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron in support of Operation… https://t.co/9ufagbwXmp
To enhance their ability to adapt, train and integrate, Wisconsin @AirNatlGuard #Airmen conducted aerial refueling… https://t.co/nzCMePgXU7
BREAKING: The #AirForce announces bases to support #B21 Raider mission. @Team_Tinker @EdwardsAFBhttps://t.co/j92e7uKAro
14-year-old Fallon Emery, a cancer warrior, was recognized for her fighting spirit as #AirmanForADay.… https://t.co/cVaKy4anEb
#ICYMI: #AirForce Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson recognized Cadet 2nd Class Kyle Haak as Cadet of the Y… https://t.co/djHw2rBNFL
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Thanks, COLAF & @USEmbassyBogota, for the warm welcome. Colombia is one of our most capable & reliable partners in Lat…
RT @SecAFOfficial: We want small innovative companies to work with the @usairforce and we’re willing to change the way we do business for i…
#ICYMI: Luxembourgers and Americans gathered at #Luxembourg #American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg, Nov. 11,… https://t.co/sUOvKZ6WWE
Members of the @AFResearchLab participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art a… https://t.co/n5eFygccZc