By Ms. Kristin Bradley (IMCOM)February 2, 2009
HOHENFELS, Germany - Maj. General Anthony Jackson, director of operations and logistics for U.S. Africa Command, certainly remembers why we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, an event that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, Jackson was living in Germany at the time and can remember celebrating the events with his family.
He can remember his sister defying a bus driver, and he himself sat at lunch counters in non-violent protest.
He remembers graduating from high school in Oakland, Calif., in the sixties, a city that he said was about 65 percent black at the time, and being faced with the choice of what kind of activist he would be.
Would he align himself with the Black Panthers and other militant groups forming across the country'
Or would he, like many others, choose to follow the message of peace and hope preached by Baptist minister Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'
Speaking at the U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels dining facility Jan. 15 during a celebration honoring King's birthday, Jackson explained why he chose the latter.
"Dr. King said we must know each other so we don't fear each other, so we can respect and love each other, and treat each other with love and justice," he said, adding that it is for this same reason that the Department of Defense holds many celebrations throughout the year honoring different people and cultures.
Jackson was the keynote speaker at a celebration that began with a recording of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech with a slideshow of photographs from civil rights protests and included the elementary school choir singing various songs honoring King.
Before he began speaking, Jackson led the audience in a round of "Happy Birthday" to remind guests of the reason for the holiday.
"We work hard, we look forward to these days off . . . and sometimes we don't stop and remember and reflect on the historic events and who we are really celebrating. But I want to remind you that today is indeed a celebration."
As he addressed a packed dining room, Jackson reflected on what King's actions and legacy have meant to him.
"There were great tensions in this country-destructive tensions. But one man rose above them all because, as he simply and eloquently said, 'The time is always right to do what is right.' And in his doing right in the years of his life . . . he gave our nation, and the world, a beacon of light in a world of unjustness," said Jackson.
He said that King was carrying on the work of the Founding Fathers, that if one listens to his speeches, one can hear the ideals of men like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Jackson recited, from memory, parts of the Declaration of Independence and said, "Dr. King, he grabbed hold of those words and he used their promise of freedom and justice for all Americans, but particularly for the civil rights of Americans of African descent."
"He served as the moral conscience of the nation during a time when it was certainly needed. He taught us how to break down walls of prejudice and injustice. He gave us his dream. And, as he put it, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."
Jackson recalled what it was like to hear King's "I Have a Dream" speech as a teenager and spoke about how King's legacy has inspired him throughout his life.
"In many ways, I consider myself the culmination of his dream. I am just once of many, that's for sure, but like Condoleezza Rice, like General William Ward (AFRICOM commander), my current boss, and our President-elect, we are the culmination of Dr. King's dream . . . without Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we may still be another hundred years from a (then) President-elect Barack Hussein Obama."
At the end of his speech, which, upon completion, earned an immediate and passionate standing ovation, Jackson left his audience with a task to complete.
"I ask you to join me as a dream keeper by ensuring that we treat all people, everyone, with dignity and respect and by ensuring that we, as Dr. King said, 'from every mountain side let freedom ring.' The way we can continue to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the destiny of America is to continue to assist all people in knowing the joys of freedom."