By Carolyn EricksonFebruary 27, 2009
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Soldiers, civilians and family members filled the Pershing Club to participate in the African American-Black History Month luncheon,
The luncheon included a meal, a dance presentation by the Lincoln University Dance Troupe, and remarks by Lincoln University of Missouri president, Carolyn
"I am old enough to have been around when Martin Luther King marched in Selma, Ala.," Mahoney said. "I was in Memphis, Tenn., and my husband marched on Selma ... and got thrown in jail. I stayed home and studied."
Mahoney joked about how she thought it appropriate that someone should study while others marched, so that when the chance opened, black Americans would be prepared to step up.
Mahoney, who has a PhD in mathematics, has stepped up when chances opened throughout her life. She has taught mathematics at several universities, helped establish a university, served as a program director for the National
Science Foundation and is now president of Lincoln University in Missouri.
Mahoney shared details about the recent completion of the Lincoln University's Soldier
Black Civil War Soldiers founded the university in 1866, after learning how to read from white officers. The memorial was designed to reflect their struggle to educate themselves and the desire to educate others.
"This is a monument to our founders," Mahoney said. "These were Soldiers working together to preserve our nation's unity. Their efforts pointed toward a more open and free society which we share today."
Mahoney also said the memorial symbolized how we think about hard work of people in the past, and a way to say 'thank you' is to "pay it forward." Mahoney spoke of how working hard and helping others today is a way to thank those who have gone before and paved the way for our success.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin, Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, shared his thoughts on the marchers in Selma.
"What a history lesson. The sacrifice, commitment, courage, bravery and tenacity they had to move us forward as a country," Martin said. "And now our commander in chief, President Barack Obama, was voted in because people thought and believed he was the best person for the job. What a great country."
Col. John Megnia, Fort Leonard Wood garrison commander, reflected on his experience with the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam protests.
"I was sitting at home watching TV while your husband was marching," Megnia said. "You (younger generations) have no clue how turbulent is was growing up in the 60s.
"Now we have two black men leading the two major political parties of our nation," Megnia continued, referring to Obama as the de facto leader of the Democratic party, and Michael Steele leading the Republican party. "We've come a long way in my lifetime."