Walter Reed National Medical Center Celebrates King's Life, Legacy
Russell C. Campbell Jr. speaks at Walter Reed Bethesda's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance. Campbell is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who participated in demonstrations with King.
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) community gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during an observance in Memorial Auditorium Jan. 12.
Remember, Celebrate, Act was this year's theme for the Martin Luther King Jr. observance.
"It's important to pause, honor, observe and reflect on individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King," said Lt. Col. Eric E. Bailey in welcoming attendees to the observance.
"[He was] someone who spent the majority of his life fighting for justice and equality for all mankind," said Bailey, troop commander for the U.S. Army Element at WRNMMC.
"I ask that we all do our part on a day-to-day basis here to live up to Dr. Martin Luther King's dream as we work hard, side-by-side, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and civilians to take care of our families and patients as one staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center," Bailey added.
Just as King wanted people to look past color and see others for the content of their character, Bailey said it's important for staff and patients at WRNMMC to look past service to accomplish the mission and "Treat everyone equally with dignity and respect. Our patients deserve it, and we alldeserve it."
Guest speaker Russell C. Campbell Jr., is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who participated in demonstrations with King. A native of Detroit, Campbell recalled when he was a high school student how the lunch-counter sit-ins, in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960, inspired him and some of his fellow students in his hometown to do the same.
"I decided I was going to make a sympathy demonstration [in support of the protesters in Greensboro]," Campbell said. "We wanted to make sure that stores knew we were not going to accept [discrimination] in Michigan, Alabama, North Carolina [or anywhere]."
Campbell said the Detroit protesters were met with violence, and he was struck in the face by an egg and his picture published the next day in a Detroit newspaper. "What we did was brought to the attention of the folks up North what was happening in the South."
And South is where Campbell took his fight.
He enrolled in Morehouse College and became active with the Committee On Appeal of Human Rights or COAHR, as "a frontline activist in demonstrations, sit-ins and protests," he said.
Campbell explained that the non-violent aspect of their protests was by design. "I'm from Detroit, and the idea of being hit and not hitting back is not in my nature. However, it was clear to me that the idea of non-violence was an instrumental part of what we were trying to accomplish. We were saying just because [we took hits] doesn't mean we were cowards, but strong spiritually [and in our convictions]. It was clear to me that this strategy had some validity."
Campbell said because of his activities at Morehouse, college administrators spoke to him at his father's request about "not putting the cart before the horse.
"My cart was the people and the black community, and my horse was The Movement," Campbell explained.
He added that he eventually came to the realization that "education was the key," and he needed to put himself in a position in which he could do "the most good for the most people."
Campbell eventually went on to earn his bachelor's degree from Benedict College and worked in Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia on voter registration. He was jailed with King during a protest in Albany, Ga., and explained "it was part of the price to get us to where we were going and where we wanted to be."
Campbell continues to work for civic organizations. He was a founder of the United Council of African American Organizations in Montgomery County, Md., and member of the Human Rights Commission for Montgomery County, Md.
In sharing some of the proudest moments of his life, Campbell said he "cried like a baby" when President Barack Obama took the oath to become president of the United States because Campbell knew and participated in some of the battles fought to make that day possible.
Martin Luther King Jr., made the ultimate sacrifice, he said.
Reflecting back, Campbell said, "I was there on the Mall in 1963 at the March on Washington when a black man spoke of his dream, and I was there on the Mall in 2009 to see a black man become President of the United States of America.
In closing, Campbell told the audience, "It is your job to make sure the pettiness of the past doesn't become the foundation of the future. We are in this together."
Following Campbell, Col. Charles W. Callahan, WRNMMC chief of staff, explained how people are fortunate to live in America where they can walk down the street side-by-side, enjoy football games and do other things often taken for granted here. "It comes to us through the sacrifices and hard work of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Mr. Campbell and so many others who forged relationships and diversity."
However, Callahan said "there's still work that needs to happen, and we have a responsibility to act because we truly, truly stand in the shadow of giants."
The Bethesda Multicultural Committee organized the King observance and other multicultural events at WRNMMC
Thursday, Jan 19, 2012 Publication: The Journal
by Bernard S. Little Journal staff writer