FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 16, 2020) -- Fort Drum community members commemorated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual observance Jan. 15 at the Commons.

As guest speaker, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Shelton Williamson described King as a champion of non-violence who believed that peaceful means could result in peaceful ends. As the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient at age 35, King's crusade for equality started in the South and made its way across the nation.

"Dr. King used peaceful non-violent protest to raise the conscience of Americans all across the country," Williamson said. "Although he was a champion and huge advocate of non-violence, he was often beaten and imprisoned by law enforcement for conducting peaceful protest. He believed that blacks needed to stand up for themselves but, more especially, stand up for what is right."

Williamson said that King advocated love over hate, and he never gave up hope that society would embrace the values of diversity and equality.

"Dr. King said that it is always the right time to do the right thing," he said. "There has never been a better time to do the right thing than right now."

Williamson said that everyone can honor King's legacy by continuing his work.

"In the spirit of Dr. King's dream, I think there are a few elementary things that we can do as a society to help bring about change in our families and in our communities," he said. "Treat each other with dignity and respect. Invest in our children - surely they are the future of our country. Realize that integration is an opportunity to participate in the value of diversity. Help others at every opportunity. Take care of your community and the people who live in it. Shower others with random acts of kindness, love and compassion."

"These tenets will take us a long way as we progress and do our very best to keep Dr. King's dream alive," Williamson concluded.

The observance, hosted by the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, drew a capacity crowd at the Commons ballroom. Col. Matthew Bresko, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade commander, thanked Williamson, a former noncommissioned officer with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), for his thought-provoking speech.

"There is no way any remarks I have could top Command Sgt. Maj. Williamson's remarks, so I won't even try," Bresko said. "But if you look around this room, it is standing room only and it's that way for a reason. It's because this is significant. We're talking about an individual who dedicated and gave his life for a cause, a cause greater than himself. I know people like that, I'm surrounded by people like that. So thank you for what you do every single day, but as previously stated, the work toward true equality is not done. It's up to us to continue to do it."