Mannheim play honors Dr. King
January 15, 2004
MANNHEIM, Germany — Like many of today’s servicemembers, Martin Luther King Jr. was young and had a family.
But King managed to live a “complete life,” as he put it, by working to improve himself and the lives of others, and by forming a bond with God that gave him strength.
About 20 members of the Mannheim military community honored King’s lifestyle on Wednesday morning by performing “Dimensions of a Complete Life” before a nearly full house at the 700-seat Schuh Theater in Benjamin Franklin Village.
The one-hour show included singing, acting, slides and video.
King would have turned 75 on Thursday. The United States observes his birthday as a federal holiday on Monday.
The show was written and choreographed by Col. Herb Newman, commander of the Mannheim-based 2nd Signal Brigade, which was host to the show along with the 293rd Base Support Battalion.
Newman said King was young when he was asked by the civil rights leaders of the day to lead great causes.
In 1957, at age 22, King was named pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. At 28, he was recruited to become president of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“He was not necessarily one who wanted the limelight,” Newman said. “The [SCLC] leadership chose him. They realized he was the one who could bring it all together.”
At 34, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, where he told a crowd of 250,000 civil rights supporters:
“I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1968, at age 39, King was killed by a sniper while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.
Wednesday’s program dramatized for the audience big moments in King’s life — when he graduated college, got married, was asked to direct churches and civil rights groups.
The short scenes jumped back and forth from stage left to stage right, a spotlight shining on the actors as they took their turns. Sometimes during the musical parts, the audience clapped their hands to the beat.
Staff Sgt. Frederick Owens, a chaplain’s assistant for the 2nd Signal Brigade, played organ and helped lead a spirited singing of “Glory, glory, hallelujah Lord, since I laid my burdens down.”
Owens said his role gave him a chance to reflect on the changes in the United States since King’s day. He said he was struck by how much King was able to accomplish.
“It was how he balanced his public and private lives,” Owens said. “He was a husband and a father raising a family, and at the same time he was also taking on the social injustices of America.”