By Sgt. 1st Class Yolanda Brown, 193rd Infantry Brigade Equal Opportunity AdvisorJanuary 19, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C.-- It has been nearly 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. This speech immortalized Dr. King. He became a beacon of hope to all races that have seen oppression and opposition; a beacon of hope that has fostered possibilities where they were otherwise deemed as impossible.
In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King said that although the country was facing difficulties at the time, he still had a dream -- a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
It is such a dream that has enabled African Americans to no longer receive their food in the back of restaurants because they are now restaurant managers and restaurant chain owners. It is this dream that has replaced the fear and anxiety that overwhelmed students who required protection and escorting to and from newly desegregated schools with a feeling of pride, self-accomplishment, and belonging.
Generations past and present are walking through the front doors of prestigious schools -- as students, teachers, principals, college professors, and as presidents of universities. It is this dream that has allowed hope to prevail; minorities can dare to dream of becoming CEOs and presidents of major corporations, dare to dream of owning their own television network, and even dare to dream of becoming president of the United States.
Even in the military, one can see the progress made toward racial equality. We are no longer separated within our ranks by the color of our skin. We are now a band of blood brothers and sisters fighting hand in hand, willing to lay down our lives for each other.
Soldiers of all races, colors and creeds are fighting in Afghanistan against oppression based on discrimination of religious beliefs and creed. This is the self-sacrifice and service to which Dr. King alluded when he stated, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
Soldiers of all ranks can achieve promotions to the next higher grade or be appointed to the next higher rank or position because of their potential and qualifications, not because of the color of their skin. Even within our own Fort Jackson community, we can see an array of Soldiers and civilians, deriving from all walks of life, working and training together to meet a common goal.
Although we as a people have made great strides toward establishing equality and dispelling injustice, we must continue to press toward the mark and bring the dream to fruition because it is not fully realized.
Where there is inequality in education, there is still much to do; where there is structural racism that hinders job opportunities and promotions, creating an imbalance in the scales of economic wealth, there is still much to do; where there is not equitable, affordable health care for all, there is still much to do.
Thomas Edison was once quoted as saying: "We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present."
Complacency in our thoughts and in our actions cannot prevail if we are to have forward movement in realizing Dr. King's dream.
This year's theme for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Observance is "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on ... not a day off."
But these words serve as more than just a theme. It is the essence of the principles of equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King and it serves as our pledge to his memory to empower ourselves as individuals and strengthen our communities.
Remember! Remember the man and his dream. Do not let Dr. King's service and sacrifice be no more than a shadow of a memory in our minds. We should always be aware of his teachings and principles of nonviolence in all that we do in order to build stronger communities and essentially a stronger, more tolerable country.
Celebrate! Celebrate Dr. King's life. Although he is no longer among us, his spirit and legacy remain. Celebrate in the fact that Dr. King served as a beacon of light, extinguishing the clouds of darkness that loomed around in the forms of racial inequality and social injustices.
Act! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
Each year, communities remember Dr. King by coming together on the King holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. It is important to keep Dr. King's legacy of service alive and make service a part of our everyday lives.
We should celebrate our accomplishments, but, more importantly, act to make this more than a day of reflection and accomplishments, rather a lifetime of devotion.
Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on ... not a day off.
Editor's note: Fort Jackson will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a luncheon at 11:30 a.m., tomorrow at the Solomon Center.