Fort Leonard Wood held its annual Martin Luther King Day Luncheon Jan. 24 in recognition of the civil rights leader’s accomplishments and legacy.
The event was organized by the 3rd Chemical Brigade and featured a performance by the Waynesville Middle School Choir. Retired Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard delivered the keynote speech.
Dillard, former U.S. Army Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear School deputy assistant commandant, U.S. Army Reserve, reflected on the impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has had 51 years after his assassination.
“While many of us in this room were not born when Dr. King delivered the iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, we have studied, recited, heard or read it,” she said. “He wanted what any parent wants for their children — the ability and opportunity to lead successful and productive lives in a diverse and equal environment.”
Likening civil rights issues from the time of King’s death to today, she encouraged attendees to continue advocating for equality.
“As we face some of the same issues of yesterday, we have come a long way, no doubt, but we still have a long way to go,” Dillard said. “Just as generations before you have fought injustice, you must do the same.”
She reflected that although fellow citizens may come from different backgrounds, “America’s diversity has always been our greatest strength, not a weakness.”
The conclusion of her speech was directed toward the “new generation of leaders,” imploring them to remain positive and unify the same way the late civil rights leader did.
In stressing the importance of continual, incremental progress, Dillard invoked the words of Dr. King, “‘if you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving.’”
Dustin Griffin, Waynesville Middle School choir teacher, and Dillard were both presented certificates of appreciation following the speech.