West Point celebrates, honors life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Story and photos by Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

January 17th, 2019 | In Focus, News
 Sgt. Maj. Dakhalfani Boyd, force management sergeant major for the Army Reserves, the keynote speaker during Tuesday’s MLK Day Observance Luncheon at the West Point Club is presented with a cadet saber letter opener by Class of 2019 Cadet Jack Lowe.
 Sgt. Maj. Dakhalfani Boyd, force management sergeant major for the Army Reserves, served as the keynote speaker during Tuesday’s MLK Day Observance Luncheon at the West Point Club.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed Monday, but Tuesday, Jan. 15, marked what would have been his 90th birthday. In remembrance of King and his legacy on his birthday, the U.S. Military Academy’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity hosted its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Observance at the West Point Club.
The luncheon featured Class of 2021 Cadet August St. Louis speaking about the meaning of King’s “I have a dream” speech to him and a keynote address by Sgt. Maj. Dakhalfani Boyd, the force management sergeant major for the Army Reserves.
While defining the meaning of King’s speech to him, St. Louis talked about the progress America has made in being more inclusive of people of every race, gender and sexual orientation, while also pointing out how far there is still to go.
“To better ourselves today, I believe Dr. King would urge us to engage in civil discourse constantly to ensure greater understanding between differing viewpoints,” St. Louis said. “It is important to talk about celebrating our differences. We have come very far, but much of the road is still ahead of us. Through peaceful communication, we can achieve the dream Martin Luther King Jr. strived for in 1963.”
Boyd continued the sentiment of highlighting the progress that has been made, while also calling on those gathered to continue striving to accomplish more.
He opened his address by calling on people to do more than simply celebrate the day with a parade, luncheon or gathering at church and instead actively live out King’s message and work to make real change. He grounded his speech in history, discussing how it seems so far away that water fountains, restaurants and more were segregated, and interracial marriage was illegal, although it was only 50 years ago.
“Today is special because we are celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, a day on not a day off,” Boyd said. “So many people give lip service to the most superficial dimensions of his legacy and life, but few people take the time to take Dr. King seriously. To take Dr. King seriously is to commit institutionally to his life, to his ideas and the notion of service.”
“A day on, not a day off,” was a recurring message throughout Boyd’s speech as he called on people to use King’s legacy and the holiday not simply as a day of remembrance and off work, but as a spur to action. He highlighted the struggles King faced from the arrests and attacks by dogs and firehoses and encouraged people to fight for change.
“Today, I want you to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, yes, but I want you to do more than that,” Boyd said. “I want you to question yourself and be honest about your answers. I want you to educate yourself about history and read books and essays from perspectives that are not yours. I want you to make an effort to combat injustice and talk to people with a different background and a different ethnicity.”
Following his speech, Boyd was presented with a replica cadet sabre letter opener in thanks. The next diversity luncheon, which is in honor of African-American History Month, will take place Feb. 13 at the West Point Club.