Army FMWR director praises King's 'soul generated by love'
January 17, 2012
SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 12, 2012) -- "You only need a heart full of grace, and a soul generated by love," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a sermon Feb. 4, 1968. King meant to encourage his congregation to seek greatness through service.
J.C. Abney, director of G9, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, repeated King's call to service as the featured speaker at the installation Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration at Fort Sam Houston Theatre, Jan. 12.
"We're here to join and celebrate the legacy of a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," said Abney.
King is known for his work in the civil rights movement and his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
"If he was still alive today, Dr. King would be 83 years old," said Abney. "But at the time he spoke these words that represented his vision of an America rid of racial tension, he was only 34 years old."
Time won't erase King's call to selfless service.
"Each and every time I hear that speech, the words resonate with me, especially when I think about the young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." said Abney. " No matter how you look at Dr. King's life, it is clear he lived a life of service."
King's short life is well documented. He graduated from high school at 15, became an ordained minister and finished college at 19, led his first church at 25, earned a Ph.D. at 26, was a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate at 30, and died at 39. Abney stressed to the audience of about 250 that Dr. King lived a life of service.
"I have often heard people talk about life in terms of the dash," said Abney. "As you walk through a cemetery, and read the headstones, there is a dash that separates the date you are born and the date you die. Dr. King's dash was 39 years."
"Have you ever stopped to think what he accomplished in just those 39 years, as they relate to selfless service," Abney questioned. "Have you ever stopped to think what your dash will tell others about your selfless service?"
The birthday celebration was organized by the Fort Sam Houston Equal Opportunity community to remember Dr. King's life and inspire soldiers and civilians to act.
"Sometimes you have to respond to the call of service no matter where you are." said Abney.
King's call to service came after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and was arrested. King responded by organizing the Montgomery bus boycott. This action led to a Supreme Court decision that Montgomery's segregated buses were unconstitutional.
"Courage is all that separates an ordinary person from a great person," said Abney. "But Dr. King makes the point that when people serve, anybody can be great, because anybody can serve."
Abney's speech was interrupted once by laughter at an opening joke and once again by applause for a recital of King's famous speech by Sgt. 1st Class Ahmand Brown, 106th Signal Brigade. But for most of the 20-minute talk, the Fort Sam Houston Theatre was as quiet as a church.
"Since his assassination in 1968, Dr. King's legacy has inspired public service," said Abney. "He has certainly inspired me in my lifetime."
Mr. Abney grew up in South Carolina and retired at the rank of colonel after more than 27 years in the Army.
People today don't always have the choice of where or how or what capacity we will serve, Abney warned his audience, but he encouraged all to respond to the call.
"I've often heard people say how much they wish Dr. King were still living today to see the result of his work and service." said Abney. "I remind those people that Dr. King was not a selfish man, and that he did not do his work and service for mere gratification or results. The results of the service are not always instantaneous. Don't forget King's words: all you need is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."
In closing, Abney challenged everyone to keep Dr. King's dream alive each and every day.
"I leave you with one question to take with you," said Abney. "what will your dash tell others about your selfless service?"
The audience responded with a standing ovation.
"Mr. Abney's speech was inspirational and very relevant in terms of how we should live every minute of the day," said MSG Gregory Study, installation equal opportunity advisor. "Abney encouraged us to perform service with passion and from the heart. The crowd's reaction was 100 percent positive all the way around."
The Fort Sam Houston Elementary School "Exemplary Choir" followed the speech with songs performed on xylophone and glockenspiel, and a choral rendition of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie's "We Are the World."
Dr. King was born Jan 15, 1929. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared the third Monday in January a federal legal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, which falls on Jan. 16 this year.