By Nicole Murray Ramirez
There are three official ceremonies for a new naval ship.The laying of the first steel, the keel ceremony and finally the official dedication with the navy ship’s new officers, crew, top brass and dignitaries.
Not long ago I was honored to be invited to the laying of the keel official ceremony of the USNS John Lewis at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipping yard. Many civic and leaders from all over were in attendance. I was there representing the Harvey Milk Foundation which I serve on the National Board of Directors and our founder Chairman Stuart Milk who was in Europe. Everyone, I have had the honor to meet Congressman John Lewis and hearing him speak. It’s like hearing Moses from the Bible. This man, I believe was touched by God and is carrying on the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The Secretary of the Navy announced three ships that will be built: the USNS John Lewis, the USNS Harvey Milk and the USNS Robert F. Kennedy with all ships being built at the world-famous NASSCO Ship yard, one of the very best builders of ships in the world.
Eric Young, one of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s top aides took me to the large shipyard and Eric knew all the Navy officers and NASSCO top officials and introduce me to all of them. We were given front row searing and Lewis once again gave a most moving speech with highlights from his youth. I could listen to Lewis all day. What impressed me most was how so many of those hard workers were there and beamed proudly of their work.
I met one of San Diego’s most respected and caring citizens whose reputation speaks for its self, Mr. Kevin Graney who was so accommodating to all my questions. I was especially impressed with Graney expressing in his speech how proud that he is that the NASSCO workforce is so diversified with many women and people of color holding such high-ranking positions. I was there to get some ideas for the three ceremonies for the USNS Harvey Milk on behalf of Faulconer and Milk and the Harvey Milk Foundation. The top-ranking Navy officials including those in from Washington, D.C. were very helpful to me and answered all my questions. But a gold star goes to Dennis DuBard who was outstanding and made everyone feel at home. Dennis could answer any questions about General Dynamics, NASSCO or any of the new ship ceremonies. Graney and DuBard are not only the pride of General Dynamics/NASSCO but of their thousands of workers. I took a lot of notes and have some great ideas for the dedication of the USNS Harvey Milk here in San Diego and that includes countless LGBT veterans and active duty military! Thank you so much Eric Young and Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
2 keys to the cities: Salt Lake and Lexington
As many of you know I travel many times a month for mostly speaking engagements at conferences, Prides, dinners, coronations, benefits, etc. I am so blessed to meet so many kind people in all my visits, especially LGBT activists and leaders all over the USA, Canada, Mexico, Italy, and more. Most important many become lifelong friends and we watch out for each other. Of course I am honored when I am recognized for my activism but in Lexington for me to receive the Key to the City of Lexington along with both Dennis and Judy Shepard from Mayor Linda Gorton was so moving and humbly as these two people are true heroes and Icons.
I just love mayor Jackie and her wife. We have become good friends and allies. She has been an outstanding mayor and has also served Utah well in the State Legislature. And she spearheaded the new boulevard street named after Harvey Milk, second to San Diego and followed by Portland.
Many of you ask what I am going to do now with the Keys to Cities I have been honored with from Portland, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, San Diego and now Salt Lake and Lexington. I will be donating all my works, historic papers and collections to different LGBT museums and LGBT archives who have asked for them.
— Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing a column since 1973. He has been a Latino/gay activist for almost half a century and has advised and served the last seven mayors of San Diego. Named the “Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest” by a city proclamation, he has received many media awards including from the prestigious San Diego Press Club. Reach Nicole at Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Nmrsd2.
Editor’s Note: The opinions written in this column are the author’s own and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of Gay San Diego and/or its parent company, San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN). The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.