Andrew Young celebrates black history with First Army
March 6, 2009
- Black History Month
FORT GILLEM, Ga. -- The man who would become an international symbol of freedom and equality traveled a short distance from Atlanta to Forest Park to speak to more than 250 Soldiers and Civilian employees Feb. 23 at Fort Gillem's Getaway club.
Keynote speaker and former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Jackson Young shared words of wisdom during his 20-minute talk at First Army's African-American celebration.
Young said no other organization has brought people from all backgrounds together to work as a team as has the U.S. military. He said celebrating unity together is the message the world needs.
"Bringing people together to solve crises is essential to the American way of life," said Young. He added, "The way to do that is through respect; an effort to understand; not being afraid to confront verbally; forgive, not blame; come together and reconcile. There is enough guilt to go around - learn to forgive and live together."
This year's theme, "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas," highlights the problems of race and citizenship in the United States.
The theme also provides an opportunity to explore other nations in the Americas and around the globe where people have sought the rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.
"Now, whenever we try to separate, and get too Democrat or too Republican, too black or too white, too rich or too poor, things fall apart," said Young. "This country works best when we are in trouble. That's when we pull together as a team, and nobody has set a better example than the United States military."
President Truman understood that the military had to be united if the country was going to be united, Young continued.
He said nobody has done as good a job - not the church, not the universities, not business, not organized labor - that the United States military has done in bringing people of this country together to solve crises.
"I want to thank you for continuing that tradition. I want you to understand that it's not an accident, but it's absolutely essential to the American way of life," he said.
"The rest of the world needs to learn these lessons," Young emphasized. "And I don't know where they're going to learn them, except from you all."
The ambassador encouraged Soldiers to go back to their communities after retirement, earn teaching certificates and teach the discipline and teamwork they have learned in the military.
"What you have here is what the world needs," Young concluded. "A whole lot is dependant on you. Our country has always depended on you, and you have never let us down."
Sgt. 1st Class Stacy Hampton, equal opportunity advisor for First Army, and Maj. Perry Jarmon, interim deputy public affairs officer for First Army, coordinated the event.
"First Army strives to make its Soldiers culturally aware, and Young is an example of someone who continues to help people understand their differences," Hampton said.
The program, which included food sampling of traditional African-American dishes, was hosted by the First Army deputy commanding general, Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Robinson.
Students from First Army's partnership-in-education school, Fountain Elementary, performed hand chimes under the direction of its chime choral group music teacher, Chelsea Brown.
Brown said the students were excited to participate in the program.
"It gives them a sense of community," she said. "The children are excited about representing our school. It's a very positive experience for them."
An original poem, "We Have Come," penned by Letitia Thornton, Equal Opportunity officer at Camp Shelby, Miss., was presented by Sgt. 1st Class Maritza Diaz, a senior human resources sergeant with First Army's Personnel Directorate, and Fountain Elementary fifth grade honor student Jacelyn Bryan.
Professional musicians Elemental Equations, under the leadership of Melvin B. Baldwin, provided music and accompanied First Army's information management officer, Kenneth Tweedy, as he sang the old Negro spiritual, "Precious Lord."
"It's amazing to take part in this Black History program," said Baldwin. "Being here with Ambassador Young, the children and Soldiers make this very special for us."