When civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington in 1963, central to the famous I Have a Dream speech, what he gave that day was the message that racial equality was an essential element for the future of the United States. In my life, and my work here at Bechtel, I share that same belief today, that all people, no matter who they are, deserve equality and fair treatment.
Dr. King led this fight for racial equality until he was gunned down on a Memphis hotel balcony in 1968. Now, more than a half-century later, the fight goes on and I continue to dream.
Why? Because in these past few months in the U.S., we’ve continued to see the deaths of unarmed people of color at the hands of law enforcement, and we’ve seen unequal treatment of people of color and their allies who are exercising their First Amendment rights to protest or peacefully assemble. I know there is so much more that needs to be done, but I continue to dream because I want future generations to have hope and be able to live in a world without these concerns.
Following Dr. King’s assassination, it was 15 years before he was recognized with a national holiday in the U.S. It was first a federal holiday in 1986, but it wasn’t until 2000 that it was observed by every U.S. state. Yes, progress often takes time.
While I am often frustrated at how long civil-rights-related change sometimes takes, perseverance is key to the fight for equality. The same is true for our efforts to become a more diverse and inclusive culture at Bechtel. We must persevere if we want to prevail and advance the diversity of talent and have a bias-free workplace culture where everyone is respected, valued, welcomed, and treated fairly. I have hope that the day will come where we no longer need to have the conversation about equity and fairness at work, in education, in government or any other place. That someday, it will just be how we operate as a company, a nation, and a world.
But, until that day comes, we must continue as Dr. King said in his speech standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”