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Monday, February 1, 2010

Love as a Weapon -- Black History Month 2010

Commentary by Maj. Christopher Herring
12th Flying Training Wing Plans and Programs

1/20/2010 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As we reflect on the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, let's focus on the vast leadership lessons he left us that pertain to our current world condition. As a nation, we are at war in at least two campaigns, humanitarian operations are underway in Haiti, and many of our families and friends are rebounding from financially tough times. The central message that will work across each of these examples is the love Reverend King preached to his congregation.

Dr. King would foot stomp love in every message, every public and private gathering, that it was love that was sufficient to correct any unjust situation. He was the drum major for justice and determined non-violent direct action would cause a domino effect to improve conditions for black people in America.

As a military person, I know we don't think about packing "love" into our deployment bags, but maybe you should. Love is the No. 1 weapon that has improved our nation and our capacity to do even more as the greatest nation on the earth.

America learned through Dr. King we have a moral responsibility to be the ambassador' of love. Our military is a reflection of that love. Thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines sacrifice, even their very lives, to ensure America can continue to be free and foster the principles on which it was founded in 1776.

We are the strongest nation because of the freedoms which we enjoy -- the freedom to communicate, even when our words, Tweets, IMs and blogs may be unpopular; the freedom to worship, even when other areas of the world condemn religion or condemn one's particular faith; the freedom to have a vote, even when others may spit at democracy. We know our purpose is grounded in the love of humanity and our nation. Our nation's all-volunteer military force is a credit to how far we have come and provides a benchmark of our success in the global environment.

Dr. King was just as committed a soldier. He forced America to take a hard look at itself and used nonviolent civil disobedience to spread his message. I found out over the holidays my mother-in-law served in the forerunner to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was called the Montgomery Improvement Association. As a teenager, she met with Dr. King and Reverend Abernathy to organize meetings and conduct fund-raisers in the community.

As she told me her story, she spoke of the love that filled the community to ensure people would continue to sacrifice and do the hard things being asked of them. Why would children, teens, adults and the elderly commit to a fight knowing they would be attacked for doing so? Because love is the most powerful law we can follow to prevail in tough situations. Love will cause you to "love thy enemy" and not turn your back on the truth.

The truth is America was forced to look at itself and realize that our shores couldn't be a beacon of hope or a refuge for foreign immigrants until America removed the double talk that discrimination and racism fostered.

Today, people of all races support the dream of Reverend King more so than ever before. The top Twitter tweets on Jan. 18 were #MLK, #IHaveADream, and not surprisingly #Haiti. Each topic is relevant to the MLK Holiday.

The new orphans of Haiti will need loving families and a fresh start at life. Dr. King said every American is responsible for helping people living in poverty. We have overlooked situations like Haiti long before the earthquake. Today, actions that people have taken to adopt African children in poverty will hopefully catch on so that the orphans of Haiti will not have problems with adoptions. America has been preparing for this challenge for years and we will be able to make a difference.

Dr. King told us that love could penetrate the worst situations in life. The children in the third grade class I read to at Randolph Elementary School are far ahead of what I knew about Dr. King at their age, and their interpretation of his message is truly amazing. They will not allow the clock to turn back America's progress. America's spirituality has improved tremendously since Dr. King's assassination.

In his Letter of Birmingham, Dr. King appealed to white clergy to lead and not be passive. He described the most segregated hour in America as the 11 o'clock hour on Sunday morning. Time magazine reported this year Evangelical Churches have moved from 6 percent inclusion in 1998 to 25 percent racially inclusive in 2009. What happened? What occurred? When love is allowed to take root, all things are possible.

We can see the love Dr. King spoke of is working and making great progress. As we gain more blessings as a nation, we should only expect more will be required of us -- not less. America's greatness is not built on being isolationist, but our ability to influence the world for its good.

To clarify an answer to the fundamental question we hear on television every year, "Have we reached the promises of Dr. King's dream?" The answer for me is "No," but I do offer faith, hope and love is the only way to continue making progress in our nation and across the world.

I leave you with Dr. King's last sentence taken from his "Letter of Birmingham City" sent to his fellow clergy on April 16, 1963: "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

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