As a celebration of the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the USS Midway Museum held its 9th annual MLK luncheon on the hangar deck. The event was not only a tribute to the accomplishment of Dr. King, but an opportunity to shine the light on several local community leaders who are making a difference in San Diego.

Presented by Midway’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, the luncheon honored Pastor Miles McPherson, senior pastor at the Rock Church, with its 2023 Bridge Builder Award. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that exemplify the core values of the museum, which include community service and working to improve relationships, understanding, cooperation and inclusion among various ethnic communities.

“This award demonstrates a commitment to equity and fairness for all, and challenges us to rise above the issues that divide us,” said Veronica Armstrong-Evans, chair of Midway’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. “Thank you Pastor McPherson for the bridges you build to bring our nation and our community together.”

“There are a lot of things we all have in common,” said Miles, a former NFL football star who played with San Diego Chargers from 1982-1985. “My heroes like Roberto Clemente, Mohammed Ali and Martin Luther King all made incredible sacrifices that grabbed my heart. Fixing problems requires sacrifices and we all have to work together.”

The luncheon’s guest speaker was Dr. Robert Satcher, Jr., a former NASA astronaut who is currently an associate professor of orthopaedic oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. During his remarks, he reflected on how the legacy of Dr. King’s civil rights movement have impacted the American space program. 

“Dr. King was a unifier,” said Robert, a mission specialist on STS-129 in November 2009 on board the space shuttle Atlantis. “If we can all get along, we can accomplish anything imaginable. When you look back at earth from space, you don’t see divisions or boarders. What NASA is doing in space with diversity has the ability to supersede the conflict we continue to experience on the ground. We have to remember this because this is how we will continue to be successful.”

Along with the Bridge Builder Award, the Midway’s Outstanding Community Service Awards were presented to Daphyne Watson, the executive director of Mental Health America of San Diego, and Pha Le, a senior physician partner at the Vituity Cares Foundation. Both are deeply involved in a variety of community outreach programs in San Diego.

“I needed the shoulders of giants who came before me,” said Pha, who escaped from Vietnam with his parents in 1982. “Without them, I could not have achieved what I have. I humbly accept this award as an acknowledgement of my accomplishments, but more so as encouragement to continue to show up every day and put in the work.”

“My family is my inspiration that keeps me moving and wanting to care for others,” said Daphyne, who earned her master’s degree in social work from San Diego State University. “I dedicated my life to working with families. Martin Luther King helps us appreciate assisting people to make their lives whole.”