HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, but it happened only because of his commitment, was the message Maj. Gen. Richard Clark, Vice Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB, La,, brought to the Martin Luther King commemoration last week at The Landing.
“We always talk about Dr. King as a visionary for his dream, but when I think of him, the thing I recognize is that his vision would have been just a dream if there hadn’t been commitment to reality,” Clark said.
Clark suggested what King did best was, committing to his dream even through beatings from police, 29 visits to jail and several attempts on his life, including the time he was stabbed in the chest with a letter opener, barely missing his aorta.
King then gave the ultimate price for his commitment when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Clark talked about the three stages of commitment: the first phase, defining the vision; the second phase, in which the first action is taken; and the defiance phase, in which a person defies the odds achieving that vision.
“King’s first action was the bus boycott, when the civil rights movement started, but then he went through another 13 years where he led defiance at every step of the way, and that’s what it took for him to bring that vision closer to reality,” Clark said.
Clark related the time he and his family were stationed overseas a couple of years ago, and while visiting the Vatican, heard the story about Michelangelo. Clark learned that Michelangelo originally turned Pope Julies II down when asked to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, claiming to be a sculptor, not a painter.
After being asked a second time, Michelangelo agreed — as long as he was allowed to paint his own vision.
What originally was to be nine figures that would take about a month’s time to paint, Clark said, turned into 400 images with 11 scenes from the Bible with an intricacy no one had seen before. It took four years to finish.
“Michelangelo had a vision, saying he had to do this his own way and take the time he needed. He laid on his back for four years, his hands becoming arthritic and then having scoliosis from lying on that scaffold, all because he had the commitment to follow through on that vision,” Clark said.
“A vision has to be something bold if you are going to invoke change, with a purpose bigger than yourself that means something to the world and then that vision has to be communicated. Just like Michelangelo communicated his vision to the world through painting with oils and a paintbrush, King painted his vision with words.”
King was a brilliant man, Clark said, having come up with a vision that no one in history had been able to communicate at the time.
“It was bold, when you think about him saying, ‘I have a dream that one day in the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’ This was unheard of back then,” Clark said. “The vision was bold, but it was going to change America.”
Clark pointed out that a lot of people give up when things get rocky during the defiance stage.
“King said the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands during comfort and convenience, but where he stands during controversy,” Clark said.
“We need to make a vision, not about our selfish needs, but a purpose bigger than us, and proclaim it, commit to it, and defy the odds, whether we’re trying to change the world of art, the world of war, or change marital or racial relationships, go all out. Drive to the finish with your vision and commitment, and keep the dream alive as King kept telling us.”