By "Pentagram" staff writerJanuary 16, 2007
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 16, 2007) - Pictures flashed on several screens in the auditorium of the Army Test and Evaluation Command in Alexandria Friday as a distinctive voice boomed. The black and white photos showed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he delivered speeches in towns such as Montgomery, Selma, Memphis and Washington D.C.
There was a man at King's side in many of the photos: Andrew Young. He traveled to speak to the ATEC Soldiers and civilians in honor the slain civil right's leader's birthday this weekend.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Young ambassador to the U.N. in 1976. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Atlanta and three as a congressman before starting his own international business.
The former ambassador recalled anecdotes about the early days of the civil-rights movement in Alabama. King was a 26-year-old preacher just finishing up his doctorate degree from Boston University when a lady named Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus.
Young said the black women of Alabama began the bus boycott and the men were ''shamed" into supporting it. The time was 1956 and such actions were extremely dangerous in the Deep South.
King's home was bombed and the young men, many of whom were veterans, wanted to grab their guns and fight.
''Martin at 26 said, 'This is not the way,'" Young recalled. ''He said, 'If we remember an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we'd end up with a country full of blind and toothless people.'"
The bus boycott took 381 days and ended with a Supreme Court ruling to desegregate the buses Young said.
Young praised the military for starting desegregation in the 1940s and for its continuing efforts at diversity and emphasis on merit.
''You can not let poor people lose hope," Young said of ethnic conflicts around the world. ''We've been able to do that in the United States of America. We've been able to keep the doors of opportunity open. Nobody has done that better than the military."
Having traveled to Africa, Young spoke about the problems in Rwanda. Poverty and ethnic divisions led to a million deaths.
''Their weapons of mass destruction were machetes and rifles," Young said. ''It was people turning on people ... I don't give up hope. Rwanda like South Africa has come back from the dead. They no longer say, 'We're Hutu or Tutsi.' They say, 'We're Rwandans.'"
King's friend credits an enlightened constitution and the emphasis on developing a high-tech economy as two reasons for the turnaround.
''That is the continuation of the dream of Martin Luther King," he said. ''Wiping out poverty and continuing diversity leads to preventing hatred."