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Dr King Birthday Speech

CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

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Welcome Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians of Joint Base Balad. Thanks
for attending todays observance. I personally appreciate everyones attendance and
want to thank Master Sergeant Verlean Brown who with her team put everything in
place today. Lets everyone give a big round of applause for master sergeant Brown.

It is important to know that twenty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed to
the world his dream for equality, Public Law 98-144 was enacted, designating the third
Monday in January as a Federal holiday commemorating Dr. Kings birthday. The King
Holiday honors the life and contributions of Americas greatest champion of racial justice
and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also
lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality. He was a man
whose words and actions were one.

It is a rare event in the course of our nations history that a singular person changes the
direction of our country in a profound and positive way. Dr. Martin Luther King Juniors
leadership of the American Civil Rights Movement made him such a person. The Civil
Rights Movement paved the way for equal rights for African Americans, and in so doing
secured equal protection under our Constitution for all Americans. Dr Kings life
changed history and that history changed lives. It strengthened our Nation, and
ultimately our Army. For his achievement we rightfully honor and celebrate Dr. Kings
life and accomplishments here today.
Dr King Birthday Speech
CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

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As a military community and a microcosm of our larger American Society, we
collectively have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to thank because the expansion of equal
rights and opportunities under the law in our society benefited our military and national
defense. The Armys legal elimination of discrimination and separatism paralleled the
ebbs and flows of the Civil Rights Movement resulting in African Americans rising
through the ranks to serve at the highest levels of command. We now have General
William Ward, commander of Africa Command, LTG Lloyd Austin III, Commanding our
own MNC-I, and preceding them General Colin Powell who served as the Chairman of
The Joint Chiefs.

The success of these leaders, and many others, were a result of the successful Civil
Rights Movement Dr. King led. The Talents of these African American military leaders
would have been an untapped resource had discrimination kept them from service or
from command and leadership opportunities as they rose through the ranks. This would
have cheated our military and our nation from having the best possible defense. If a
group of Americans is denied service to our nation then our nation is denied the benefit
of their service. All human capital in our country must be fully exploited to remain a
great nation, and Dr. Kings successes have moved us toward full participation.

Dr King Birthday Speech
CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

3


Dr. Kings famous quote, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,
profoundly exemplifies if one groups rights are denied no others can be secure. With
the establishment of full rights for African Americans came the protection of rights for all
others and the pathway of petitioning for those rights for any future Americans so
denied.

Doctor Kings Civil Rights Movement validated our Constitution in the same way that
President Lincolns Gettysburg Address redefined it. For more than 200 years of our
nations history, our Constitution was invalidated by a void in its universal application to
all Americans. The success of the statutory elimination of race-based denial of
Constitutional rights was equaled only by the importance of Lincolns Gettysburg
Address which ensured the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence
applied to our Constitution. The premise that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness, became the standard for our Constitution because of
Lincoln, and the Declarations prescripts became law because of King. The Civil Rights
Movements successes finally made our nation a just and true democracy for the first
time in its history.

Dr King Birthday Speech
CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

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Five days from today our nations first African American President will be sworn into
office from the steps of our nations Capitol. About two miles away, and four decades
back in time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech under the shadow of
Lincolns statue in which he dreamed of a nation where what we will see this January
20th could be possible. The journey from the signing of our Declaration of
Independence to the Inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama has been a long
and difficult struggle. President Obama owes his success to the many Americans like
Dr. King who suffered and sacrificed before him, thus making possible his great
achievement.

The strength, perseverance, and courage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a mirrored
reflection of the people he led. This inner strength produced a glimmer of hope in the
hearts of African Americans and established a special dream that passed from one
generation to the next. It was a dream born of the American dream, indelibly written in
the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jeffersons eloquent pen. It was a dream
that generation after generation of African Americans knew would not be a reality for
them but that someday a nation conceived in liberty could not live out the meaning of its
creed if all could not drink from the fountain of justice.

Dr King Birthday Speech
CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

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It was a dream passed from the sweltering heat of the Mississippi Delta, to the quiet
dignity of a Pullman Porter railroad car, to the preeminent authority of the Office of the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and now to the dignity and grandeur of the Oval Office.
The mantle of this dream was brilliantly picked up from previous generations by Martin
Luther King Jr. who in turn, gracefully passed it on for realization to ours.

In 1968, at the dawn of America realizing the dreams of African Americans past, Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis,
Tennessee. In that speech he envisioned a promised land where equality and justice for
all Americans would be a reality. King clairvoyantly predicted that he would not get to
the promise land, but said that God had allowed him to see it. The next day, an
assassins bullet took Martin Luther Kings life. I believe the promised land that God
allowed him to see will be reached January 20th where a young man of African
ancestry, with his beautiful family at his side, in front of millions of people of every race,
and religion, will take the oath of office and become President of the United States of
America, and Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces.

It is fitting that this years Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday celebration precedes the
inauguration of our first African American President. In these events we will celebrate a
historic moment and the man-Dr Martin Luther King Jr.-whose courage, and leadership
during the Civil Rights Movement allowed it to happen.
Dr King Birthday Speech
CSM Tennant
JBB, MWR-E
15 January, 2009

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Although challenges still remain Im happy to say that the United States Army has
throughout its history been a springboard to social acceptance and a vehicle of upward
mobility for minorities. The Army is grounded on the concepts of equal pay within ranks,
promotion based on merit, and opportunities commensurate with demonstrated
potential. Dr. Kings legacy is alive and well in our force and brings great strength to our
Army. Like the union we defend our Army continues in its efforts to be more perfect.

As you leave here today I would ask you to consider all that Dr King lived and strived
for. Each day I ask you to try to embody those principles as you lead Soldiers. Try to
inspire your own subordinates to treat others with respect and dignity as Dr King
preached and as we as leaders expect.

Thank you all for coming and Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.