Fort Leonard Wood celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at its annual luncheon observance named after him Jan. 23.
The 3rd Chemical Brigade organized the event that featured performances by the 399th Army Band.
Col. Adam Hilburgh, 3rd Chemical Brigade commander, remarked on the large turnout despite harsh weather conditions.
“I think this is the most folks I’ve seen at one of these observances,” he said. “I think a lot of it is due to the message of Dr. Martin Luther King — and his message of unity is just as important today as it was 50 years ago. His message of wanting to have his children and all other children judged by their character and not by their skin color, not where they came from, is just as relevant today.”
He introduced the keynote speaker, Chaplain (Capt.) Joseph McCall.
McCall, the 1st Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment chaplain, won first place in the 2019 District 8 Toastmasters International Speech Contest.
He reflected on the impact Martin Luther King Jr. has had.
“Our life is not measured in increments of time — it’s measured in scope of impact,” he said. “Today, we celebrate a man who, though his life was short, made a mighty impact in our world.”
McCall directly addressed the theme of the observance.
“‘Remember, celebrate, and act’ — I believe these are the keys to living a life of impact,” he said. “King understood the importance of remembering from whence we’ve come. While sitting in a Birmingham jail he penned these words in response to white clergy condemning his non-violent protests: ‘For years now, I have heard the word, ‘Wait!’ We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights.’”
McCall said King remembered where he came from, and connected “the African-American experience … from the urban cities of the North, through the clay hills of the South, through the tumultuous waters of the middle passage, all the way to the splendiferous shores of Africa.”
He quoted King’s remarks to a group of high school students, emphasizing the second part of theme, “Celebrate.”
“‘Be proud of our heritage … we don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word black,’” he said.
Again quoting King, he said, “‘It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word white, it’s always something pure, high and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight. I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out, ‘Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!’”
McCall made a distinction, defining equality as different from similarity.
“King understood that our differences are to be celebrated and not denigrated,” he said. “Yes, two things can be equal yet not the same. (Our founding fathers) understood that since humanity bears God’s image we all deserve respect and have intrinsic value and deserve respect, from the womb to the tomb.”
Finally, he challenged members of the audience to act.
“James 2:20 says, ‘Faith without works is dead,’” McCall said. “Dare I be so bold to add knowledge without action is dead? Contrary to popular belief, knowledge is not power, but knowledge applied rightly can change the world.”
McCall received a standing ovation.
Hilburgh and Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Arzabala presented several guests, organizers and performers of the event with tokens and certificates of appreciation.
To learn more about King’s life and his accomplishments, visit http://www.americaslibrary.gov/aa/king/aa_king_subj.html.