Story and Photos by: Steve Tressler
It can be said that the indifference of good men is why slavery continued for as long as it did. Only when good men and women, leaving behind their indifference, finally spoke up and acted for change, did racial inequalities transform into equality for all.
Never before in history did race mean so little, and yet so much, to one person. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., according to friends and family was known to welcome anyone into his home, white or black, with a smile, their race did not matter. Yet it was along racial lines that King’s legacy will forever be known.
Sadly, to a lot of people around the world, even in the United States, the most some people can tell you about the late Martin Luther King, Jr., is that “he’s the ‘I have a dream’ speech guy.”
No, he was much more.
Here in Djibouti, Africa, Kentucky National Guard Soldiers of Task Force Longrifles were reminded of that on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Observance. The Camp Lemonnier program remembering King was called, “Enduring Legacy…Keeping the Dream Alive!” Its message focused not only on Dr. King as a civil rights leader, but on his vision of one day having a stronger, lasting world community.
Headquarters Battery 1st Sgt. Robert Burns, was a part of the ceremony as a member of the chorus. He also had this to say, “People sometimes forget that Dr. King’s passion for change in America wasn’t just for black people, it was for all people. The conditions for black people in America would only change if all people in America embraced the idea of change as a positive, and I think we’re getting there.”
The Senior Enlisted Command Leader for CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa), Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Gary Smith brought the room to its feet when he delivered his powerful message of “Yards after Contact.” Smith said ‘it is when you don’t get what you want and are stopped, like Emmitt Smith running with the football, that you don’t fall, you need to keep charging forward. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dream. Keep running towards it.’
This begs the question, what if Martin Luther King Jr., hadn’t become the man we remember? What if he took his college degree, found a job, and never spoke up? What if he settled for indifference as many of his generation did? And how amazing is it that he was named for a man, who also spoke up about the wrong’s of the status quo, in spite of the threat of serious repercussions as well?
One thing is certain, in the US, and even here in Africa where people of all races work together everyday, his dream has prospered.
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