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STUTTGART, Germany — The equal rights for all sought by Martin Luther King Jr. were embodied years ago by the U.S. military, which was ahead of the human-rights curve, an audience was told at a Wednesday morning breakfast honoring the civil rights leader.

“Dr. King envisioned a world where the chance to become whatever you wanted to become existed,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark L. Farley of the U.S. European Command after his speech to the audience of 200 at the Patch Community Center.

“The United States armed forces does a tremendous job of that; it’s leading the nation. We try to make sure people do have that opportunity.”

The breakfast marked Stuttgart’s annual observance of King, who gained fame in the 1950s and 1960s before being assassinated on April 4, 1968, at age 39.

Farley noted that the military became fully racially integrated by 1954, the year before King led the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and was propelled to the forefront of the civil-rights movement.

“It wasn’t perfect,” Farley said. “But we were ahead of the nation as a whole.”

Farley told the audience that if they visited Washington, they ought to walk up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A plaque about three-quarters of the way up the stairs marks the spot where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

A quarter-million people gathered to hear it.

“Just take a moment to put yourself back there at that moment in time,” Farley said. “It must have been remarkable.”

In a rousing warm-up act, Eddie L. Bell, a civilian employee of the 52nd Signal Battalion, presented a 10-minute reenactment of highlights from King’s speeches: “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”


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