Esteemed speaker delivers message of hope, perseverance
February 21, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - One of the most influential African American leaders in the nation was the guest speaker during Team APG's Black History Month program at the APG North (Aberdeen) recreation center Feb. 6.
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and chair of President Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, addressed a rapt APG audience.
Hrabowski's accolades include being named "One of America's 10 Best College Presidents" in 2009 and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2012 by TIME magazine. He is one of the 2012 inaugural inductees into the U.S. News and World Report STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.
The great-great-grandson of Eaton Hrabowski, a Polish-American slave owner in rural Alabama, Hrabowski said his lesson in achieving goals stems from around age 12, when he and his parents were jailed for five days after participating in a civil rights protest led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He said King visited the jailed protestors during their incarceration with words of encouragement that propelled him to a career in education and continue to inspire him.
The standing-room only audience included cadets from the Maryland National Guard's Freestate ChalleNGe Academy and Hrabowski directed many of his remarks toward the young attendees.
"I will never forget when Dr. King said that what you do this day will impact children who haven't yet been born," he told the audience. "I firmly believe that if a young person of any race gets a good education that person has a chance to accomplish all kinds of things."
He said his belief is strengthened by the nation's enthusiasm for and promotion of STEM programs.
"While working on the president's education commission, I realized too few are trained in the sciences, engineering, math and technologies," he said. "I want young people of all races to be excited about what STEM can do."
"We need people who can think well, who know the importance of discipline and hard work," he said.
He called America the "greatest experiment humankind has ever seen" due to its diversity and its slow, yet gradual, movement toward equality as envisioned by King.
"The idea is to dream big," he said in closing. "To dream about the possibilities. We can do this. We can be better than we are today."
APG Garrison Commander Col. Gregory McClinton introduced Hrabowski and Lt. Col. Chad Lewis, 20th Support Command (CBRNE), offered closing remarks. APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell thanked Hrabowski and the program's participants.
Other program highlights included a reading of the Black History Month Presidential Proclamation by Nkenge Evans of Edgewood High School, and gospel selections by "Togetherness," APG civilians who volunteer their time to provide songs of encouragement to local audiences. A food tasting, catered by First Sergeant's Barbecue, followed the ceremony. Capt. Jennifer Jackiw of U.S. Army Public Health Command was the emcee and Donna Doganiero, also of USAPHC, delivered the welcome. USAPHC Commander Major Gen. Jimmie Keenan hosted the event. Black history displays and artwork decorated the center.
Several attendees appreciated the program.
"I enjoyed everything about it," said Lillian Wright of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. "I liked how he focused on young people. He helped us envision a part of history, and he is a part of history because he knew Dr. King and that his fight was for all people, not just African Americans."
Lt. Col. Pamela Howard-Whitehurst of JPEO-CBD said she also appreciated Hrabowski's focus on youth. "I really enjoyed the speaker," she said. My son needs to hear that speech."
Retired Harford County Public Schools teacher and writing instructor with the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy, Sherman Lantz, agreed.
"As a teacher of youth I enjoy hearing the educational aspect," he said. "I loved it."