CIA Hosts Congressman John Lewis at Ceremony Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 8, 2009
The Central Intelligence Agency today commemorated the life and legacy of one of America’s greatest leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The keynote speaker at this annual Agency event, United States Representative and legendary civil rights leader John Lewis, delivered a moving address about Dr. King, a man he counted as a close friend and colleague. He addressed a standing-room only crowd in the CIA Headquarters Auditorium.
In welcoming Rep. Lewis, CIA Director Mike Hayden spoke about the era in which Dr. King worked actively to change our country for the better:
“I was reflecting on those times, the stress under which this nation was at that point, with both this major social movement pushing forward for equality simultaneously with a very difficult and brutal war in Southeast Asia.
“It challenged the elasticity of the Republic. Could our nation -- could its principles, could its people, could its culture -- handle or adjust to all those tectonic plate strength movements that were going on? We could. We are blessed to live in a nation that has that flexibility, that adaptability. As Dr. King told us: ‘There is nothing in all the world greater than freedom.’ And freedom is the source of that elasticity.”
Lewis shared personal stories from his youth in Alabama and from his time working with Dr. King:
“This good man, this God-fearing man, gave us hope in a time of hopelessness. This good man, this man of God, this son of the South, this citizen of America, produced light in dark places. Martin Luther King, Jr. had the ability, he had the capacity, to bring the dirt and the filth from under the rugs, out of the cracks and corners into the open light, in order for us to deal with it,” Lewis said. “That’s why we pause to celebrate the lessons, celebrate the history and the meaning of this citizen, this unbelievable man. He changed us forever.
“We must never, ever forget that we’re one people, that we’re one family, that we’re one house,” Rep. Lewis said. “Employees of this great agency and citizens of America: the wind may blow, the thunder may roll, the lightning may flash, and the rain may beat on our own house. Call it the house of the CIA. Call it the American house. We all live in the same house. So maybe our foremothers and forefathers all came to this great land in different ships. We’re all in the same boat now.”
Director Hayden emphasized that one of the CIA’s values is to build a workforce that “looks like the nation we protect” and noted that one-third of the officers who have joined CIA in the last year identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities. He also described the critical importance of diversity in all aspects of the Agency’s mission: “By building a diverse workforce, we minimize the risk of groupthink. We maximize our creativity, vitality, and above all, we maximize the effectiveness we have as intelligence officers.”