Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson, the first black woman to achieve that rank, challenged Fort Gordon’s troops Wednesday to act out Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy every day.
Her comments to a packed auditorium at Alexander Hall were part of an early celebration of Monday’s holiday honoring King. They were preceded by a spirited rendition of the civil rights movement standard A Change Is Gonna Come and highlights of the fight to end segregation.
Anderson shared her own recollections as a young child watching civil rights marches on television and how she felt when she learned King had been assassinated at a Memphis, Tenn., hotel.
“I could not understand why something like that would happen to someone trying to correct wrongs and help people excel in their lives,” she said.
Some of Anderson’s remarks were directly aimed at the camouflaged crowd in front of her. The civil unrest in the Middle East and Libya shows that the pursuit of freedom is a human enterprise, said Anderson, who serves as the deputy chief of the U.S. Army Reserve’s Individual Mobilization Augmentation Program.
Just as the civil rights movement brought new freedoms, the work of American troops overseas promoted free elections in Iraq and allowed Afghan girls to go to school for the first time.
“Each and every day, American service members teach democratic forms of government … and provide humanitarian support,” Anderson said.