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Former UN Ambassador Young Praises Military’s Inclusiveness

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2007 – Andrew J. Young Jr., a former aide to the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., praised the U.S. military’s culture of inclusiveness during an Army observance of King’s upcoming birthday held today in Alexandria, Va.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Andrew J. Young Jr., a former aide to the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., praised the U.S. military’s culture of inclusiveness at an Army observance of King’s upcoming birthday that was held today at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Defense Department photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The U.S. military fulfills King’s dream of equality and social justice for all by its practice of promoting servicemembers due to individual merit, rather than by ethnic makeup, Young said at the event that was sponsored by and held at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command headquarters.

Servicemembers “appreciate the diversity of this nation, and you fight to defend the freedoms and opportunities of all of our citizens,” he said. “And, that is what makes the military a leader in our society.”

Young, 74, has had a distinguished public service career that includes serving as a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the mayor of Atlanta, and as a congressman from Georgia.

Young said that, like King’s years of efforts to achieve civil rights for all Americans regardless of race, the U.S. military didn’t achieve equal opportunity for all servicemembers overnight.

The U.S. military began its march toward equality back in the late 1940s, Young recalled, when President Harry S. Truman ordered the armed services to desegregate. Before Truman’s 1947 directive, military units had been segregated by race.

Yet, civil rights for all were still lacking in America a decade after World War II had ended. King began his non-violent campaign to achieve civil rights for African-American citizens, Young noted, soon after Montgomery, Ala., resident Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a public bus on Dec. 1, 1955.

In 1957, King helped to establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group that harnessed the efforts of black churches to conduct non-violent protests and lobbying for civil rights reform. King’s and others efforts for civil rights’ changes in America were realized by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights work.

Race relations across the nation worsened when King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. King’s death led to race riots in 60 cities in the United States. And, the U.S. military wasn’t immune to the racial tension that existed at that time.

Although the military had issued a service-wide equal opportunity edict in 1963, race relations worsened during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Around that time, the Defense Department began successful service-wide equal opportunity and race relations programs that exist to this day.

Young thanked America’s military for its part in continuing King’s vision, by ensuring that all Americans can enjoy their freedoms.

“You are continuing the dream,” Young said. “And, don’t ever forget, that we either must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or ultimately we will perish together as fools.”

King’s birthday is an annual federal holiday, held the third Monday of January. This year it is observed Jan. 15.

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