By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From his birth into a middle class family in Atlanta to the Great Mall in the nation’s capital, the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life has inspired the world and is the reason we continue to celebrate his legacy.
King taught us many things; love and respect our fellow man, learn from our mistakes, practice nonviolence and carry on even as things may seem hopeless. But he also taught us the struggle for the equality of all races is never done. This was the message given as members of Team Pete observed the 85th birthday of this legendary civil rights pioneer.
“I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area during a period when everything was about race-relations, the late ‘60s and early ‘70s,” said Col. Charles Arnold, 21st Mission Support Group commander and guest speaker at this year’s MLK remembrance event Jan. 22 at the base chapel.
Arnold shared personal stories about growing up in an interracial family living in an all-black neighborhood, and dealing with the stigmas and bigotries that many people of color were subjected to during the Civil Rights Movement.
The focus of Arnold’s speech was not limited to the past and the intolerance of a past era; instead he focused on the present and the work that still remained into the future.
“What I want to talk about today is — what if Dr. King was still alive today? There is a lot that he would be proud of,” said Arnold. “Proud that we have a president who has an African father, a Caucasian mother and grew up on a Pacific island; only in America could that happen.”
Arnold’s frank and straight-talking speech was a breath of fresh air to the people in attendance at the base chapel, even as he talked about things Dr. King might not have been pleased to see in this day and age.
“If Dr. King were still with us and he were standing up here, I think he would tell us maybe we have become a little complacent and that we still have a lot of work to do,” said Arnold. “I think he would be disappointed that minorities are still under-represented in the Senate and Congress, disappointed at the low high school and college graduation rates. He would say that you have become complacent, America — you still have issues that need to be challenged.”
Although King’s life was tragically cut short by a gunman in 1968 while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tenn., his message and inspiration has carried on through the years. The work is not done; King would urge us all to march on.
To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, go to http://www.thekingcenter.org/.