Change means opportunity, colonel says

January 14, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Fort Meade commander Col. Robert G. Morris III urged soldiers and their families attending yesterday's services honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to welcome changes in society as a chance to make a difference.

"As a nation, we have come a long way," Colonel Morris told about 150 people in the Argonne Hills Chapel Center. "But we still have a long way to go. In this regard, we must make a change so that we can make a difference."

Colonel Morris spoke after several selections by the Fort George G. Meade Choir, including "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

He said change has different impacts on different people. To a fearful person, it is threatening because things could become worse. To a hopeful person, it is encouraging because the situation could improve; and to a confident one, it is inspiring because it creates a challenge to make things better.

"Obviously, then, one's character and frame of mind determine how readily he brings about change and how readily he reacts to change that is imposed upon him," he said.

During the 15-minute speech, the colonel said he believed Dr. King's dream has been delayed, even put "on permanent hold" because of racism, poverty and injustice.

Dr. King's teachings and beliefs live on, and they should be used to learn how to face and overcome injustice and racism, he said.

"We must use time creatively and forever realize that in time, there is always hope to do great things," Colonel Morris said, quoting Dr. King.

It is up to the soldiers to use their time to get involved in their communities to rid them of racism and discrimination and to make sure that education and training opportunities are available to everyone.

"The problems of achieving racial harmony are complex and controversial," he said. "Some say eradicating intractable poverty is the key. Some say equal educational opportunity is the key. Some say changes in our criminal justice system, and for that matter, a completely new justice system is the answer. To be effective, we must devote our energies to one segment of the problem."

And everyone is responsible for a "greater commitment" toward equal opportunity within society, he said.

He told the crowd to develop goals and standards, deny stereotypes and cultivate an attitude that recognizes that diversity within society is not bad.

"A simple starting point: Always treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve. It is not an earth-shaking start, but it is a first step."

The service ended with the soldiers and their families joining the choir in "The Negro National Anthem."

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