By Franklin Fisher

CAMP CASEY, South Korea -- The life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played a profound role in helping America move toward greater racial harmony and respect for civil rights, a guest speaker at Camp Casey told an audience attending a Jan. 15 observance of King's birthday.

"There was Martin Luther King, trying to make America what it is today," the speaker, Herbert Pleasant, told the audience of about 120 in the ballroom of the Warrior's Club.

Pleasant is director of the Community Activity Center at Camp Hovey. The event was hosted by the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.

King was an internationally preeminent civil rights leader and recipient of a 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. He was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn, April 4, 1968. He was 39.

During his remarks Pleasant put special emphasis on several of King's more famous statements, one of them from the historic "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. King spoke before an audience of hundreds of thousands who came from around America to participate in the March on Washington.

During the speech, King said "I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Pleasant next quoted the final speech of King's life, given April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

In that speech King said "And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent."

And from the same speech, Pleasant quoted these words, from near the close:

"But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop…And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."

"Today," said Pleasant, "America has grown," from the days when King crusaded against racial segregation and other forms of racial discrimination to the present day, when, in the U.S. military for example, servicemembers of different races serve harmoniously.

In a subsequent interview with the Morning Calm, Pleasant said that thanks largely to King, "we're drinking from the same water fountain, everybody's getting along, rather than being separate -- blacks here, whites there. Back in the Sixties, he was struggling to make us one, everyone with equal rights."

The event also featured a slide presentation on King's life, during which a recording was played of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Also during the program, the audience heard brief remarks by Col. Lou Rago, Commander, 1st ABCT, and a vocalist and musicians from the 2 ID's jazz band performed "Amazing Grace."

Pfc. Lee Seong-su contributed to this story.