Major General Donna Martin, commanding general of Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Ft. Leonard Wood, echoed lessons of Martin Luther King, Jr., in her keynote address at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Wednesday evening.
The event commemorating the 51st anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday, hosted by the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP Missouri State Conference and a team of supporters, drew over 150 people, witnessing song, dance, poetry, and speeches.
Martin closed out the event in a speech echoing the theme of “Protect the Dream: The Fierce Urgency of Now,” noting that, just like in the military, we must all acknowledge a shifting demographic and be honored by it.
“We must acknowledge it,” Martin said, noting that by 2025, half of the youth in Missouri will be of minority races.
In an eloquent timeline, Martin recapped the life and trials of Dr. King.
Martin was introduced by Ft. Leonard Wood’s state representative, Steve Lynch, who stepped right into his preacher shoes to share how “inspired and encouraged by a great name,” he is in Dr. King.
“A man whose life was taken tragically, but it was a life that made a difference and his legacy lives on,” Lynch said.
The theme of legacy was one echoed by previous speakers in Rep. LaKeysha Bosley, Rep. Bruce Franks, Sen. Brian Williams, and more. Another theme, hammered home by Williams: stay focused.
Dancers from Lincoln University started on the second floor, going down and back up the Grand Staircase in an emotional contemporary performance.
“I look out and I see a sea of people and that is the best part of tonight,” Franks said. “It can’t stop here…we have to build a legacy.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and both chambers were in attendance.
Introduced by Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan, Gov. Mike Parson spoke to the crowd, opening the theme of focus, something Dr. King wrote and spoke about.
“He never got distracted,” Parson said of Dr. King. “He stayed focused…all of us have focus in life. …Never forget the things that we go through.”
Parson also echoed Dr. King’s message in carrying the message of legacy through.
“The only reason you’re here tonight is because of what the people before you did,” Parson said.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.