By First Lt. Antonia Greene, 72nd FA Bde, Fort Dix, NJFebruary 15, 2009
Sgt. Major Charles Hawkins, 3-315th Engineer Training Support Regiment, 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, spent his Martin Luther King holiday in the presence of greatness. Not only was he in Washington, D.C. the night before the historical swearing in of our 1st black American president, but Hawkins was chosen to escort Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, named one of the most important and powerful American women today, who worked alongside Dr. King during the civil rights movement.
"She can dance, too," said Hawkins recalling the memorable evening.
When asked how he managed to get the VIP invite, Hawkins traced it back to his volunteering to work the polls in the Trenton, N.J. general election this past November. He met several key political figures from the area while aiding voters and over the holiday break, Hawkins received a call from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Mr. Herbert Bruce asked if Hawkins would like to be an escort officer and accompany a high-ranking government official to a presidential gala in honor of our 44th president, Barack Obama.
For Hawkins, it was a no brainer; he was honored to be selected to perform such a duty. Little did he know he would be accompanying one of Washington's finest. But when Hawkins first reported to the Thursday night rehearsal at the DOT, his hopes of attending the presidential gala were suddenly threatened; along with the 100 plus volunteer escorts awaiting assignment, only 50 were needed. As Hawkins was exiting the facility he heard his name called - 'Sgt. Major, we want you to escort Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia.' Hawkins recognized the name and after he went back home and did some research he was blown away.
"Her biography was more than impressive, she is a pioneer, a role model for women," said Hawkins.
Hawkins mentioned that he has meet several significant political figures over the course of his career, but Congresswoman Holmes is, without a doubt, the most striking. She's been breaking barriers across the political landscape for decades.
Ms. Norton was named by President Jimmy Carter as the 1st woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She has a full vote in House committees and for the first time in the city's history, Congresswoman Norton won a vote on the House Floor in the Committee of the Whole for Washington, D.C. Ms. Norton's other first time breakthroughs include the first vote on D.C. statehood and senatorial courtesy achieved for the first time during the Clinton administration in the selection of federal judges. Today, she is easily one of the most effective members of the House in producing legislation, even without a vote.
"It was all my pleasure; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes is a lovely and articulate woman, a leader with unmistakable class," said Hawkins. "She was honest and straight forward with me about endorsing President Obama and how she met with him several times before backing him publicly. She said she wanted to ensure he was 'the real deal.'"
Hawkins is eligible for retirement in 2010 and is looking to explore his possible career opportunities in the realm of urban administration and public sector management. And who knows, with his expansive rAfAsumAfA and having made the acquaintance of the chair of the House Subcommittees on Economic Development, Emergency Management and Public Buildings, his dream job may not be too far from reach.