• Post honors legacy of Martin Luther King

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    The above quote was the opening line of King’s landmark “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963. King’s speech was the basis for Fort Leavenwowrth Dental Activity Commander Maj. Shani Thompson’s remarks at the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Martin Luther King Jr. Day luncheon Jan. 17 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    Thompson said she grew up hearing about King from her parents, who are from Eufaula, Ala.
    “I learned so much and often heard about this courageous and selfless man as a leader, a scholar and a man of God,” Thompson said.
    Though Thompson grew up in Miami, she said her parents often brought her to landmarks attributed to King’s life and activism including Atlanta, Ga., where he was born; Montgomery, Ala., where he led the 1955 bus boycott; Birmingham, Ala., where he helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests; and the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., where he was assassinated.
    “While I did not experience segregation firsthand, my parents told us the stories of their segregated grade school, and we could still see the conscious separation that existed in Alabama during my childhood and that even exists today,” she said.
    Thompson said each person has his or her own opinion on whether King’s dream has yet to be achieved, but said that one way to keep his dream alive is to strive to be great leaders like King.
    “See the power we each have in ourselves as leaders and the difference we can make in encouraging a nation toward love and peace,” she said. “While we can’t directly control or change others, we can look within and work to improve ourselves and become positive examples that might indirectly help others.”
    Thompson said she learned the four enduring traits of a leader in a recent sermon she heard. King showed all of these traits.
    The first trait, she said, is courage.
    “Dr. King had to be courageous to lead the civil rights movement. He had to have courage to stand up for the rights of an oppressed group of people, despite knowing he would be jailed or even beaten,” Thompson said. “Leaders must be courageous and follow the hard right over the easy wrong. They are willing to go to battle for others and not be afraid to speak up. They will step outside their comfort zone and meet new people and see new places to gain a greater understanding.”
    Page 2 of 3 - The second trait is candor.
    “Candor is the quality of being open, honest and sincere,” Thompson said. “Dr. King possessed the quality of candor through his willingness to speak about unpopular topics and demanding changes in laws and policies that were contradictory to the Constitution and to human rights. Leaders will speak up and be transparent. They will also be humble and open.”
    The third trait is competence.
    “Dr. King was a lifetime learner. He held multiple degrees and was accepted into several colleges for his doctoral study,” Thompson said. “He also studied other philosophers and forms of thought to help advance his community’s cause. He was moved by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, causing him to incorporate non-violent civil disobedience into the American civil rights movement.
    “Dr. King would not have been selected for the Nobel Peace Prize had he not been competent and well respected,” she said. “Like Dr. King, we must never stop learning. Knowledge is power and Dr. King recognized this.”
    The fourth trait is commitment.
    “Dr. King did not stop working toward his dream. He made sacrifices to help yield this dream,” Thompson said. “He thought big and didn’t let naysayers discourage him. He had to leave his family on many occasions and in the end, he gave his life in the name of this great dream. He was truly committed, and as leaders we all must be as well.”
    In preparing for her speech, Thompson said she realized Dr. King possessed a fifth characteristic of a great leader — connectedness.
    “You must be connected to the right support system, whether that be your family, your network or your faith in God like Dr. King,” Thompson said. “You need to be connected to your source of encouragement and drive.
    “As much as some might try, we can’t live life or carry out a dream alone. We certainly cannot lead by ourselves,” she said. “We can’t effect change alone. We need our team, we need that motivation, we need that divine, driving force that will help continue to propel us forward.”
    Thompson closed her speech with a quote from King.
    “‘We cannot walk alone, and as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back,’” she quoted.
    “Dr. King didn’t do it alone and neither can we. How do we keep Dr. King’s dream alive? We look at our differences and strengths, come together as one, and we don’t give up. Let’s continue to focus on the dream,” Thompson said. “We must always remember, celebrate the strides we have made in our society and continue to take action toward equality and tolerance for all. We can continue to act and keep Dr. King’s dream alive by remembering the national Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a day on, not a day off.”
    Page 3 of 3 - The next observance luncheon recognizing Black History Month is at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 21 at the FCC.
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