Fort Drum community celebrates King legacy
January 19, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- A 10th Mountain Division (LI) brigade commander credits Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with who he is today and allowing him the opportunity to travel the road to get here.
Col. Stephen L.A. Michael, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, helped celebrate equality and honor the life of King during a special observance -- "Remember! Act! Celebrate! A Day On, Not a Day Off" -- Thursday at the Commons.
During his speech, Michael not only spoke about the civil rights leader's life work, but also how King's principles parallel the same values the Army embraces -- "that people matter, that leadership matters (and) that it can be done."
"Today we celebrate freedom (and) we celebrate our Constitution. We celebrate the ability for an individual to make a difference and to change the nation and the world -- we celebrate the power of one," Michael told Soldiers and community members during the luncheon.
"Dr. King is so recognized and honored because of who he was and what he stood for -- an American whose life and actions changed America and changed the world," he said. "Not because he was black, but because he believed what we now know to be true: that all men -- and women -- are created equal (and) that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights."
Michael also noted that King is the only non-president to have a memorial in the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and he is one of only two Americans to have a holiday named after them.
"Dr. King asked 'why not?' Why do we not believe that which we hold so dear -- our Constitution? Why do we not guarantee to all that which we celebrate: freedom. He asked 'why not?' and then set about making it so," Michael said.
The commander spoke about King, his upbringing and noted actions -- such as taking part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and leading the March on Washington in 1963 -- which "caused great Americans everywhere to stand up, demand and enact change."
"Without Dr. King, there is probably no Colin Powell, no Gen. (William "Kip") Ward, no Gen. (Lloyd) Austin, (and) no Gen. (Eric) Shinseki; there is no culture and climate that allows all of us to be all that we can be," Michael told the audience.
He also noted that without King, he would not be serving in the Army, where he is judged not by his skin color, but by his character.
"So, who is Dr. King?" he asked the audience. "In many respects, I am Dr. King; you are Dr. King; we are Dr. King. That's his legacy. That's what we celebrate here, today in this the greatest country on the planet."
He concluded his speech noting that by celebrating "the power of one," everyone could make a difference.
Wrapping up the event before lunch was the West Point Gospel Choir, who also sang before Michael's speech, performing another number for the audience.