AUSA Event Marks King Holiday

AUSA Event Marks King Holiday

Photo by: AUSA

Striving for a more perfect union and forging a true American brotherhood can be achieved by living up to the values and ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, retired Maj. Gen. Fred A. Gorden said in remarks during an event at the Association of the U.S. Army to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Recalling the day 58 years ago that he met King at a church in Atlanta, Gorden said he was pleased to be at AUSA to “remember and celebrate the courageous life and the unparalleled civil rights leadership of this great American.”

“It has great personal meaning for me, especially having gone on from that day when I met Dr. King as a cadet in 1960 to becoming the 61st commandant of cadets at West Point in 1987 and to be the first African-American to hold that position,” said Gorden, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1962. He was also the only African-American in his class.

In his remarks, Gorden highlighted King’s tireless fight for civil rights, saying it was “symptomatic of the country’s growing pains,” asserting that the U.S. was growing into a “more genuine American brotherhood.”

Gorden said while he commanded troops in Vietnam, a war opposed by King, his senses were “sharply stirred” by the news of the deployment of paratroopers to quell riots in Detroit in 1967.

“As a paratrooper serving in Vietnam, these events led me to question whether it was here at home or overseas that freedom, justice and peace were to be won; I was conflicted about having volunteered for duty in Vietnam,” he said.

But he stayed on. He returned from Vietnam and was offered a teaching position at the U.S. Military Academy where he directed the foreign languages department, the first African-American to lead a department at West Point. The Army, he said, “seemed like a good deal to me, a little above a hot and a cot, but things got rolling and quite frankly, I still hold the view that our Army and all of our military institutions are much better and much further along the way with regard to the question of ‘Are we there yet?’ ” he said.

Gorden retired in 1996 after 34 years in uniform, having completed two combat tours in Vietnam, commanding the 25th Infantry Division and serving as commanding general of the Military District of Washington.

Citing King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, Gorden said, “It’s not just me who’s a child of that dream, it’s all of us here as well as across America and many parts of the world today. We’re all children of his dream, of a time when our children will not be judged by the color of their skin but of the content of their character.”