Education, faith cornerstone of King's accomplishments
January 15, 2009
BAMBERG, Germany -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
"The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others," King added. "In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life."
To honor the doctor, U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg sponsored a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Ceremony Jan. 9., including this invocation by Chaplain (Col.) Michael Wilson:
"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, you have heard our cries and felt our yearnings for justice. You blessed us by the courage of Martin Luther King Jr. We thank you for his life and his dream... 'That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. That the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. That even a desert ... sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
"And that we will one day live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.'"
Soldiers, family members, American and German high school students, and civilians who attended the ceremony were treated to King's memorable and rousing words by keynote speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Bruce Lee.
"Today is about a historic leader whose soaring words touched the wings of angels and the depths of our hearts. It is about a person of faith who dedicated his life, and gave his life, for the simple but profound truth that we are all God's children," said Lee. "Each of us has been touched by Dr. King. No matter the color of your skin, or your nationality, or religion or whether you are a man or a woman, young or old. Dr. King's legacy has impacted your life in some way."
Lee said he asked himself many questions in preparation for his speech. The most dominant one' "How was Dr. King able to rise from his humble beginnings to be the preeminent champion of civil rights and non-violent social change' Not only that, but also lead America through a revolution for justice'"
Lee's conclusion' Education and faith. Education gave him the tools to express himself and faith gave him the courage to continue to express the needs of the people despite overwhelming opposition.
It was fitting to have so many students in the audience, said Lee, because of King's use of his own education to change the world.
King's education was extensive and began when he was very young. He excelled so much he was able to enter high school when he was 13 and graduate just two years later.
After graduation King attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at age 19. In 1948, he chose to attend Crozer Seminary, southwest of Philadelphia, and graduated from there in 1951. Plus continued there for two more years of graduate study.
Not content to stop with a master's degree, King pursued his doctorate degree at Boston University School of Theology, which he attained in 1954 by age 25.
Lee explained that it was at Morehouse College that King was introduced to the teachings of Dr. Benjamin Mays, then president of Morehouse. These teachings emphasized Liberation through knowledge.
Mays told his students, "I am disturbed, I am uneasy about men because we have no guarantee that when we train a man's mind, we will train his heart; no guarantee that when we increase a man's knowledge, we will increase his goodness. There is no necessary correlation between knowledge and goodness."
The goodness Mays spoke of, however, could be seen in King's efforts to end social injustice and to improve the lives of many underprivileged people throughout the world. It is that goodness that pervaded everything he attempted to accomplish. He wasn't content to sit back and watch. He used his education by making words his "weapons of defense and offense."
One day he told his children, "I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be," said King on Jan. 7, 1968.
King was also heavily impacted at Crozer Seminary by the preachings of Dr. A.J. Muste and Dr. Mordecai Johnson on the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, and was moved to intensely study Gandhi's writings and movement on active, nonviolent resistance. This led him to study other philosophers and combine their ideas for his own use.
As a result said Lee, King arrived in Montgomery, Ala., well prepared and equipped to lead his congregation and others through the desperate times of segregation in the South.
Lee said, "To this day, race is still perhaps the most controversial issue for people to discuss in public or private. Yet I would have to believe that Dr. King is smiling down upon us today as we approach the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States."
Lee closed with the following request, "Over the next few days, take the time and go to YouTube and listen to 'I have a dream speech' in its entirety. No matter if you heard it a hundred times or never heard it at all. Find something from that speech to enhance, not only your life, but someone else's."