“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
Words from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were the theme of Fort Rucker’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative program at the post theater Jan. 17.
Fort Rucker Garrison Commander Col. Stuart McRae described the defining quote as a mirror image of the military post.
"This right here at Fort Rucker, is Martin Luther King's vision. No matter who you are, (or) what your background is, everybody is equal. Everybody has the same opportunities as everyone else," he said.
After reading the Declaration of Independence and the famous line “all men are created equal,” McRae said it is those words, which King stood for.
The event, a celebration of the 27th anniversary of King's birthday, also set out to reflect on the civil rights leader strive for peace, passion and purpose.
“We’re celebrating today the life of a servant leader who had the personal courage to stand by his convictions despite being subjugated to the faces of treatment, whether it was beatings or it was jail,” McRae said. “(He paid) the ultimate sacrifice so that the ground could be level for every American. No matter what your background, skin tone or where you come from, all Americans can be equal and that’s his legacy.”
Mayor of Dothan and event guest speaker, Mike Schmitz, spoke about his own experiences in finding inner peace and purpose.
On New Year’s Eve, Schmitz and his son, Michael, were on the highest hilltop of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, where he said he stood next to a sign that read “uhuru,” Swahili for freedom.
For almost two weeks the father and son spent time in Tanzania, Africa, where Schmitz said the annual income is about $300-$400 a year.
“Strong people, strong spirit but I couldn’t help thinking coming home, how privileged and blessed we are to live in the Wiregrass and to live in America,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz said he has lived a blessed life, but also talked about the struggle he faced growing up.
For years Schmitz was struggling in foster care until one day he met a teacher who changed all of that.
“She sat across from me,” he said. “I’ll never forget her sitting in the chair, and I’m sitting in a little chair and her opening a book and saying, ‘Mike you can be anybody. You can do anything you want in life if you open a book, read and learn.’”
Schmitz said his teacher helped him because she saw his true potential.
“She gave me the tools to succeed…and I realized I needed to change,” he said.
Schmitz said his purpose, he believes, was to start an orphanage. He helped start the Wiregrass Children’s Home in Wicksburg 22 years ago.
He asked the audience to think about how they can achieve their purpose in life.
“We all have purpose,” he said. "Find your purpose — a way to serve. Live with passion so at the end of your life you can be like Dr. King, who spoke of his happiness and (had) no fear in his last speech, he had his inner peace.”
McRae thanked Schmitz and presented him with a commemorative plaque for being the guest speaker.
Those in attendance also heard a variety of musical selections during the program from the Fort Rucker Primary School first grade chorus and Sheila Jackson and son Patrick of Greater Saint Paul AME Church in Troy.
Timothy Knighton, Fort Rucker Equal Employment Opportunity Manager and event coordinator, thanked everyone in attendance and those who helped put the event together.
“As stated by our guest speaker, I don’t believe there is a better way to address the issue of poverty, homelessness, crime and all the other social issues that we face today, than the idea that each of us has something to offer and that is selfless service to others as we continue to pursue the principal of equality and opportunity for all,” he said.