The Fierce Urgency of Now

Retired Air Force General Lester Lyles invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he visited Aerospace earlier this year as a guest keynote speaker during African American History Month.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., calling for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. 

When retired Air Force General Lester Lyles visited Aerospace in February as a guest keynote speaker during African American History Month, he recounted his experience attending the March on Washington as a 17-year-old and hearing the speech. Lyles recalled Dr. King’s phrase about the “fierce urgency of now” and related them to the continued struggle to ensure voting rights for all, particularly Black people and other minorities. 

Lyles served as commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center from 1994 to 1996, and after retiring from the military, served in a number of roles in government and private industry, including as Chair of the NASA Advisory Council and as a member of the User Advisory Group to the National Space Council. 

His keynote event was co-hosted by the Aerospace Black Caucus and Aerospace Military Veterans, and served as a poignant reminder for Aerospace employees in attendance. The theme for this year’s African American History month was “African Americans and the Vote” in recognition of the sesquicentennial of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted Black men the right to vote, in 1870.