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Phoenix VA Celebrates MLK Day Holiday

MLK Day 2024

The Phoenix VA Health Care System held a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration for Veterans and employees at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center on Jan. 11., ahead of the national holiday, Jan. 15.

The theme for this year’s event was “It Starts with Me: Shifting the Cultural Climate.” The program was hosted by the Phoenix VA’s Black Employment Special Emphasis program, one of seven Special Emphasis programs designed to address unique concerns of targeted groups to ensure equal opportunity for employment, advancement, and retention within the VA on a non-discriminatory basis.

“The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has not only become a day of remembrance, but a day of service,” said Medical Center Director Bryan Matthews. “It’s a day on, not a day off” continued Matthews as he recounted a theme from several years ago. 

“Think about this year’s theme ‘It Starts with Me,’ the power of one as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream started with him,” said Matthews. “Without his dream, where would we be today and that one man’s dream, equality for all, started a movement that changed a nation.” Matthews also encouraged employees to “imagine an organization not only as a service, a healthcare system, or a VA, but as a nation full of equality for all.”

Phoenix VA Chaplain, Rev., Dr. Fidelis Igwenwanne keynote speaker echoed Matthews words and said, “Everyone is called to make a difference in one’s own way, in our own attitude, in our endeavors, in our own families, even here at the VA, we are called to make a difference by being ourselves.”

Other events from the program included a poem by Kiesha McGaugh, lead patient advocate and Rita Morris, chief of quality, safety, and improvement as well as a song by Barbara Williams, nursing operations coordinator/nurse manager and her daughter. 

In McGaugh’s poem, she challenged everyone at the Phoenix VA to have a deeper introspective experience regarding King. The intent of the poem according to McGaugh, was to stir up discomfort within everyone and cause a shift in perspective about the life of Dr. King.

“I want to provoke you to not just celebrate the watered-down version that time has fashioned for us to recall but rather be intentional with educating yourself and others about the full body of his work and his righteous rage.”

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