Honoring a Visionary
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on the King Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities.
Service is a Part of Us
At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is about service to our community. Our commitment to the people in Washington, D.C. extends far beyond our walls to the neighbors that call Washington, D.C. home like us. As part of our effort to serve our neighbors in need, Nurse Sherri Peterson embraced a request to collect new, full-sized toiletries for a local non-profit that helps families affected by HIV and AIDS. She took the initiative to set up collection boxes in our nursing office, convenient for our nurses.
Service is Contagious
Inspired by Nurse Peterson's actions, other hospital associates donate toiletries, as well. At our MLK presentation Thursday, featuring a performance by Mosaic Harmony, a multi-faith, multi-cultural community choir dedicated to Service Through Song, and a presentation by Mary Elliot, a curator at the Smithsonian’s new Museum of African American History and Culture, more than 320 items were collected to help The Women’s Collective, which assists families affected by HIV and AIDS.
Below are perspectives about the MLK celebration from some of our associates.
Donna Arbogast, Vice President, Public Affairs & Marketing:
I didn’t expect to be so moved. I didn’t expect to gasp or to cry. But I did.
During the Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, an audience of nearly 200 people listened intently as guest speaker Mary Elliott spoke of her passion – the Slavery and Freedom section of the African American Museum of History and Culture, which will open on the National Mall this summer.
Mary had us all in the palms of her hands from the beginning of her talk. She was a quiet speaker, a thoughtful person and clearly, someone with a very deep commitment to the work she is doing – collecting objects that tell the powerful stories of slavery.
Mary shared photos of an ornate and highly precise drill bit that was created by a slave who had no formal training or education, but whose skill as a blacksmith was highly regarded. She showed us the beautiful wrought iron cross he made for his wife’s grave. But she also reminded us that not only did he work with iron, he lived in it – with shackles around his ankles.
When asked about the most moving moment she’s had as she’s gathered objects and stories, Mary paused for a long moment. Then she said softly that, one day, she found herself holding the handle of a whip. At the end of the whip was a ball, and she tried to imagine the people who had felt the pain of that whip against their backs. That was when many of us cried.
Mary took all of us to different places in our minds and our hearts that day. But at the core of her talk was the message that this museum captures the history of all of us – a history filled with amazing stories of courage, resilience and grace, but one also that we all must own and share to move forward.
Silvester Stokes, Business Manager, Department of Nursing, Patient Care Services:
Mary Elliott’s presentation during the MLK celebration and remembrance program was emotional and touching but also very informative. As a curator, she has positioned herself not only to tell history to others but to represent and make history that relates to our diverse and changing society. The story that resonated the most with me was the story about the slave house; where the decedents of both the slave and owner families came together in harmony, peace, support, and civil conversation to help the museum’s curators accept ownership of the old slave house. The story itself and the pictures shown proved evidence that Dr. King’s dream lives on….. “I have a dream …. the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Continuing the Cause
MedStar Washington Hospital Center volunteers took part in a Day of Service at The Women's Collective January 27 to offer health screenings and to clean and help pack moving boxes.