by Clester Burdell, ANAD Public Affairs

Anniston Army Depot, Ala.--Excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech came to life on Wednesday as seven-year-old Brenton Ball addressed more than 400 depot employees at this year's Black History Month luncheon.

Barely peering over the podium, the second-grade Oxford Elementary School student may have been too young to actually realize the significance of a message that was written more than 44 years ago from a jail cell, but he stood boldly and articulated every word.

Ball, son Calvin and Sheila Chatman Ball, left the stage on a standing ovation while paving the way for the day's keynote speaker, Dr. Danna Andrus, whose message centered on the greatest commandment, overcoming life's challenges, social misperceptions, and having aspirations.

Truth speaks out

Andrus, whose extensive military background includes the United States Marine Corps, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, is a therapist, professional consultant, and Urban Youth Specialist.

Using a quote from Proverbs 29:18 - where there is no vision, the people will perish, Andrus emphasized the importance of "fusing the concepts of where we come from and where we're headed."

Stepping down from the staging area at the Physical Fitness Center to interact with the audience, Andrus, also known as Dr. Truth, said "for a boy to become a man, he has to see a man. If he sees meritocracy, he becomes mediocre. But if he sees ambition, he'll reach for the stars. It's important for adults to be respectable role models. I can't tell my children to read, love each other, obtain an education, or go to church if I'm not leading by example. Credibility and demonstrability line up together. Regardless of what position you aspire -- a teacher, preacher, commander or president. If you see yourself there tomorrow, you will make better decisions today."

He continued by making reference to "back in the day" when it literally took an entire neighborhood to rear a child; however, today those neighborhoods have changed. Gone are the days when togetherness was woven by grandmothers sitting on the porch watching over the neighborhood.

"They asked an array of questions to those who visited because they knew the potential negative issues could have a lasting affect. Unfortunately, some of that concern has been replaced by much younger grandmothers who aren't as committed. Communities must reunite," said Andrus.

"Regardless of our ethnicities, we can learn from each other. Using the analogy of how vegetables are tossed and served together and not lose their flavor, Andrus said "so are people, we too can blend together without losing our identity. We all have significance and a purpose."