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NEWS | Feb. 2, 2023

NSWCPD Hosts NAVSEA Joint Warfare Centers’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance

By Joseph Fontanazza

Naval Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division hosted the Naval Sea Systems Command Joint Warfare Centers’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance for in-person attendees and virtual guests alike on Jan. 19, 2023.

The NSWCPD African American Employee Resource Group (AAERG) Vice Chair Keina Thorpe presided as the master of ceremonies for the event. Thorpe introduced a powerful video featuring members from all 10 naval warfare centers reading specific quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and explaining what the particular quote meant to them.

“Unfortunately, I have to follow that video. That’s a hard act to follow,” NSWCPD Commanding Officer Capt. Dana Simon said, giving praise to all the people involved with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day tribute.

Simon wasted no time setting the stage for the rest of the event as he said, “We are here today to honor the life and legacy of one of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement in this country. Dr. Martin Luther King had a vision, and he devoted his life in pursuit of equality to all, regardless of the person’s skin color.”

He continued, “Dr. King was an inspiration and had a dream of equality in our country, but his life tragically ended before he could witness the fruits of his labor. We’ve made great progress, but as the last few years have shown us, we’re still on the path to the dream.”

During his keynote address, the Honorable Dr. Clifford L. Stanley a retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General, empathized that he lived through the same evils and hypocrisy going on in the segregated south that King stood against.

“I went to South Carolina State College, now South Carolina State University…I was working and we had a position where they wanted me to work with the Red Cross. I couldn’t get a blood transfusion. Blacks could not have blood transfusions with whites in 1966-1967. I’m not making this up,” Stanley said.

He continued, “If you know anything about Dr. Charles Drew, you know that he was a person responsible for the blood plasma and helping to create the blood donations we have now. A Black man…We lived in separate worlds.”

Even through those troubling times, the decorated Marine still followed the teachings of King in his heart and mind.

“It doesn’t really matter whether or not you love me because I’m going to reciprocate the way it’s supposed to be, it’s love period,” Stanley said.

The current associate minister at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown could have abandoned King’s teachings of love and non-violence after his family was shaken by a racist attack, but Stanley’s strength and ideals carried him through that tough time.

“On April 13, 1975, my wife was shot by a racist shooting Black targets of opportunity. She survived. We have been married 52 years, but she’s paralyzed. I was stationed at the Naval Academy…Remember now I still love my country; you don’t have to read too much into this. But I’m telling you though, when I think about Martin Luther King this is not just a day of service,” Stanley said.

The Roy Wilkins Award recipient concluded his speech by bringing together the words of one his U.S. Marine Corps commandants with Dr. King’s message.

“This is about love, this is what Dr. King stood for…John A. Lejeune, one of our commandants…used the word love. He talked about loving his Marines. When I was a Major in Command and Staff College, I wrote my command philosophy and Johnny gave me the perfect out. I said I love my people, love him, quoted him, ‘love my people, love my Marines, love my Sailors, love them all,’” Stanley said.

He ended his powerful message adding, “It’s not a wuss factor to say you love somebody, it doesn’t make you weak and anybody who knows anything about my record and my background, you know that.”

After a question-and-answer session, NSWCPD Technical Director Nigel C. Thijs provided closing remarks.

Thijs praised Stanley on giving an accurate representation of the segregated South and stressed that we still have steps before King’s dream is realized.

“Often we aren't actively aware that Dr. King’s dream hasn’t been fulfilled because we see examples where Black Americans and other underrepresented communities achieve some representation in leadership or other areas, or we've seen improvements in diversity throughout our careers,” Thijs said.

He added, “Our inaction may stem from the fact that this work is challenging. Maybe ‘the mountain’ feels too overwhelming for us as individuals. As Dr. Stanley said, ‘baby steps.’ Diversity, equality, and equity are vital to us forming a more perfect union.”

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.