FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- As Soldiers and civilians from the Fort Drum community gathered Jan. 16 at the Commons to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leaders pointed out that King's "dream" lives on.

Guest speaker Col. Stephen L.A. Michael, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, said King's actions have helped shape the U.S. Army into the multicultural fighting force it is today.

"Today we celebrate the power of one," Michael said. "You can make a difference; Dr. King did. He highlighted what we embrace in the Army, that people matter, and that leadership matters."

Michael credited the actions of King and other civil rights activists like President Abraham Lincoln, abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy for making the sacrifices that helped make the U.S. a great nation.

"Meaningful change always comes at great cost and personal sacrifice," Michael said. "The genius of our founding fathers was in developing a system that understood human nature, catered for it, and constrained it. (A system) that understood that we were not perfect, that we didn't know what we don't know, and made in it room for it to be amended as our union perfected.

"It's important that we remember where we've come from and who has paved the way, that we remember our history, the good and the bad, the pain, our like passions, our darkest days, and our highest heights," he added. "Were it not for Dr. King, this country would indeed be different, not as magnanimous, not as hopeful, diminished, and not as great."

The celebration brought together people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures to discuss the impact of King.

Many Soldiers in attendance, such as 1st Sgt. Matthew Celestine of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT, echoed Michael's beliefs that King's achievements helped future generations build a stronger Army and a better nation.

"I think it's important to celebrate the past, so we can learn and grow, to keep from making the same mistakes," said Spc. Mitchel Murphy, an artilleryman from B Battery, 4th Battalion, 25th Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"The reason we are here today is Dr. King," Michael said, "who stood up and was counted, (who) stood in the gap, dreamed what no one else dared, and asked, 'Why not?'
"(King) received the baton, passed down through the ages, and got it done," he added. "And now he looks to us."

Michael concluded his speech with a Bible passage that he said encompassed King's life.
"As Scripture says, 'Greater love hath no man than he that lay down his life for his friends,'" he said. "Dr. King died so that we might live free, to ensure that this country realized and lived up to its true potential. And (he) has helped paint this beautiful multicultural mosaic of ours.

"As we remember Dr. King, we remember not just that he died, but rather that he lived, and his actions forever changed who we are and who we can now become," Michael added. "Let us always remember what he did and what he now compels us to do. Live a life that matters; be great; and know that, if not you, then whom?"