Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking outside

Living King’s Legacy: Greatness Determined by Service

By Molly Manchenton

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. extolled the value of service and social equality. MITRE honors his legacy by serving our country and our communities.

“Every now and then I think about my own death … and then I ask myself, 'What is it that I would want said?' I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King Jr., tried to give his life serving others.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Each January, the United States celebrates the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a Day of Service. At MITRE, service is in our DNA, integral to our mission of solving problems for a safer world.

“Martin Luther King. Jr. Day calls us to think about how we can serve and make the world more equitable,” says Stephanie Turner, vice president, inclusion, diversity, and social innovation. She will spend the day volunteering with her alma mater, Spelman College. “We are all empowered to do something to support and contribute to equality of life for all.”

King’s call to service is especially important now. The global pandemic has expanded the scope of need throughout our communities and in many cases limited our ability to physically reach those who need our help. And yet, MITRE employees have found ways to serve where the need is greatest, contributing professional and personal expertise—along with compassion, inspiration, and data-based systems and thinking to drive change.

Expertise Applied for the Public Good—at Work and After Hours

Examples of community service abound at MITRE. Throughout 2021, our people addressed challenges from health and hunger to education and social equity.

Many of our doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who spend the working day researching the most efficient ways to track and conquer challenges like the COVID-19 virus spend their off-hours administering COVID vaccines and staffing clinics.

Other volunteers draw on their lifelong passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts to inspire students to consider STEM careers. MITRE’s STEM Council in McLean, Virginia, has volunteered with Northern Virginia’s Odyssey of the MIND™ for more than 20 years, judging problem-solving competitions and inspiring tomorrow’s innovators. In Massachusetts, MITRE volunteers helped high school students prepare for a national robotics competition.

Many more from MITRE contribute as mentors, actively working to provide inspiration and opportunity to young people in underserved communities. Through local Boys and Girls Clubs, college alumni associations, and professional or social organizations, they open doors for a new generation of STEM professionals.

While most people focus their efforts on causes close to home, the definition of community broadened for a MITRE group who teamed with students in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of water insecurity around the world. MITRE volunteers and their school-age children participated in a UN-sponsored “filter build” and raised $12,000 in 2021 to purchase and build more filters to provide people in Nepal and Haiti with clean drinking water.

Making a Difference Through Community Action  

Lasting, systemic change requires more than the contributions of individuals. It requires an unbiased, inclusive, and collaborative approach to tackle complex problems and strengthen our civil society.

For example, understanding the skill gap for underrepresented communities, we worked with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions to create the Cyber Futures Internship Program, which brings in students to advance their cyber skills by working on real-world problems. We continue to stay engaged with the students and their schools through our partnership with the organization Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was the ultimate social innovator because he dared to activate his dream of a redesigned America,” says Titilayo Ogunyale, MITRE’s social innovation principal. “In his vision, systemic racism and injustices were rooted out of not just the innovative ecosystem but all ecosystems. He envisioned a society where everyone is included and an equal participant in the American Dream.”

MITRE supports employees’ commitment to service by providing a Civic Time benefit. But the hours served don’t reflect the actual time spent giving back to the communities where people live and work.

“Every day, I meet people who work at MITRE because they want to make a difference in the world,” Turner says. “We should all be inspired by our colleagues who commit their time to making a difference in their communities, as well.

“As Dr. King said, ‘Greatness is determined by service. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.’”