FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- As guests filled the seats, live music played in the background, and a savory African American--inspired buffet prepared for lunch, Fort Bragg set the scene for an influential African American History Month observance at the Iron Mike Conference Center, Feb. 19.The Fort Bragg Equal Opportunity team in correlation with the 82nd Sustainment Brigade hosted the observation enlightening visitors about the achievements, advancements, and milestones set forth by the African American community throughout history.Guest speaker retired Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson, a native of Elloree, S.C., served as deputy commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg and was deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division before his retirement. Anderson opened his message with a timeline of when African Americans influenced U.S. history."This years marks the 150th anniversary of the first African American to serve in Congress," Anderson said, referring to Hiram Revels who served in 1870. "The theme focuses on voting, and I encourage and charge each of you to vote."Anderson described the struggle of African American's inability to vote prior to 1965 when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act -- only 55 years ago. He further stated the major influences in his life."The influences in my life are the Christian and Army values," Anderson stated. "They have become embedded in me. [They] teach you to treat everyone with respect, not to just tolerate people but to love them."Anderson stated that one of the commonly asked questions he receives is "how do you get to be a 2-star general.""First of all, the favor of the Lord," he stated. "Secondly, the magnificence of thousands of Soldiers, officers, and civilians. Lastly, the pursuit of excellence, if you want to reach your maximum potential, be in pursuit of excellence."Anderson added the important of education."My father had a passion for education," he said. "Education in essential in logic and career. Depending on the careers, it may not require a BA [Bachelor's of Art] but a technical education."Anderson, in an interview after the event, stated that "it was an honor to come back to [Fort Bragg] and talk to the men, women, and Soldiers" once again.