By Eric PilgrimJanuary 14, 2019
More than 150 employees and residents of Fort Knox joined leaders from across the post to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday Jan. 11.
Held at Sadowski Center, the event drew Soldiers, civilians and family members to "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off"- this year's theme.
The host, Brig. Gen. Kevin Vereen of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, thanked the guests for attending and introduced the guest speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Barrye Price, who talked about some lesser-known facts about King.
Price said his goal by sharing the stories of King was to highlight his humanity rather than how many portray him -- as larger than life.
"I'd like to bring King down from the elevated status that many hold him," said Price. "I'd like to bring him down a little bit and provide some granularity, and some things that you may not have known about King, so that I might build him up as a man and not some deity-type figure; as a man who had the same hopes, goals, fears, dreams, aspirations and anxieties."
Price devoted time to opening a window for the audience into some of King's childhood and adolescent influencers; how he looked up to his father; where his ideas for peaceful protest developed; in what ways others pushed him into the spotlight; and how his wife encouraged him to stay in the spotlight when he didn't want to.
King was born Michael Luther King in Atlanta Jan. 15, 1929. Price said King didn't struggle in abject poverty like many other Southern blacks did at that time.
"King didn't grow up poor. He is an unlikely champion for the rights of the underprivileged," said Price. "He grew up in a world of nourishing food and clean sheets. He grew up in a world where his parents, and his parents' parents, were college-educated. He grew up in a world where his dad had national renown."
Price said by age 6, King's future path was already beginning to take shape when father Martin Luther King Sr. changed King's first name, as well as that of his brother.
"His father admired the resolve of the head of the German protestant reformation movement ... He admired the resolve of Martin Luther and so at age 6, he changed both of their names; not legally. Through his death [King's] name was still Michael Luther King."
Price said that same year two events helped define King's future resolve. One involved a white neighbor whose two children King had grown up playing with. On a particular day, he wanted to play with them and kept deflecting her excuses of why they couldn't play by asking why. She eventually blurted out that her boys had gotten too old to play with black children. King's mom urged him not to let that event define him; that he was just as good as those boys were.
The other incident, according to Price, happened when King Sr., who was a Baptist minister, was driving his son around. A policeman pulled him over for not properly stopping at an intersection and was calling him "boy" while scolding him for it. King Sr. stopped the officer and clarified that his son, King Jr., was a boy; he was a man.
After more than 40 minutes, Price concluded by urging the audience to celebrate King's birthday with fresh new eyes.
"I would ask you to look beyond his rhetoric; look beyond the dream. I want you to remember this man was in prison 30 times in some of the most abusive penal institutions in our nation," Price said. "Twenty honorary doctorate degrees. Time's Man of the Year in 1964. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
"As you remember him this season, remember him as a man who was defined by his conscience, and not by destiny. Bring him down that we might lift him up and recognize his contributions."