FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Behind closed doors, members of the Fort McPherson community celebrated those who opened many doors.

To celebrate the contributions of blacks in the past and how lessons from those experiences could be applied today, an African American History Month luncheon was held in The Commons on Fort McPherson Feb. 20.

The event featured song and poetry presentations and a guest speaker.

"We have a lot of culture and history behind us," said Master Sgt. Libby Lipscomb, a manpower analyst for the U.S. Army Reserve Command. "We can't go forward without looking back."

By looking back, many lessons and sources of inspiration can be found, said guest speaker Michael L. Thurmond.

"African American history is American history," he said.

Thurmond, who is the Georgia Department of Labor commissioner, said by studying African American history, people can recognize that America has faced tough times before and has always bounced back.

"History teaches us not to give out, give in or give up," he said. "We've been in down economies before, but we kept coming back. America will rise from this crisis."

Personally, Thurmond said he saw living proof of this in his father. His father told him despite never learning how to read or write and only having one year of formal education, he worked hard, was there for his children and helped his children become successful.

Like his father, Thurmond said there are plenty of people "who took a little bit of nothing and made it something big."

It is on the shoulders of these people that the current generation stands, said Col. Deborah Grays, garrison commander.

Likewise, one day, future generations will stand on the accomplishments of today's citizens, Thurmond said, adding the best way to do so is to preserve your children by taking an active role in their lives.

"How much does it cost to go out and shoot some basketball with your kid' Or help him with his homework," Thurmond said, challenging parents to be involved with their children.

Although much of his speech was focused on finding inspiration from the past, Thurmond also imparted wisdom for the future.

"Don't waste time thinking about what you don't have - thank God for what you do," he said. "Learn to make due with what you have."