THE DREAM CONTINUES
Story by: Spc. Michael Giles, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
It is not everyday that a man or woman gets the opportunity to voice their opinion to the masses. Even less likely is the occurrence that not only is the message heard, but repeated time and time again to the point that the original speaker becomes a household name and the message legendary. Such are the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King on that fateful day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
King came from humble beginnings in Alabama, but even as a young man, he seemed destined for greatness. Born January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King began breaking boundaries as a teenager. His scores on college entrance exams were so exceptional that he skipped high school graduation and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, King entered seminary in 1948 and went on to become the third generation Baptist minister following his father and grandfather.
King was well known as a passionate and charismatic public speaker throughout his life and ultimately became recognized as one of the nation’s most significant civil rights leaders. King is known by most for his involvement in the bus boycott that led to the 1956 Supreme Court declaration that bus segregation was unconstitutional and for the march on the Washington Mall where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. His leadership was instrumental in helping the United States achieve its current level of racial equality, which is reflected in the diversity of the Texas Army National Guard.
Recognition and celebration of King’s contributions include the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 1964, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, which were awarded posthumously to him in 1977 and 2004. There are an estimated 700 streets in 39 states that are named after him, and the third Monday in January every year has been declared a national holiday in his honor.
Cpl. Cornelius T. Rivers, a counterintelligence agent with the Headquarters Command 71st Theater Information Operations Group, appreciates the racial diversity he sees among the high-ranking Soldiers he works with.
“I don’t think that would have been possible had it not been for Martin Luther King,” said Rivers.
“His speech was not just for African Americans,” he said, referring to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was equal opportunity for everyone.”
Sgt. Maj. Wilson L. Early, 36th Infantry Division’s former command sergeant major, said that he has seen the military become more mindful of diversity since he enlisted in 1979.
“We come from all walks of life, with many experiences,” he said. “Bringing this all together and making it work takes leaders with the mindset of mission first and the understanding that any one of us can become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Early said that the Army needs to continue making opportunities for all to succeed. “We have had diversity at the highest levels in the Texas Army National Guard and our Army,” he said. “When Soldiers see Senior Leaders that look like them and come from the same background as them, we all do better as an Army.”
Early said that living in and creating an Army that reflects Dr. King’s dream is an ongoing process.
“The dream continues,” he said. “As we continue to make strides in this direction the dream continues to move. We have some great leaders making good decisions for the future of our Army. Trust in them.”