- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

Army Col. Charles W. Hooper says he would not be where he is today had it not been for Martin Luther King.
Col. Hooper, 44, is posted at the Pentagon, where he is senior country director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia, and youngsters gathered yesterday at a D.C. library for a symposium on the slain civil rights leader found the military man an impressive figure in his dress uniform and decorations.
"If you can light a spark in a child's eye that could send them onto a successful life, then we have an obligation to do so," Col. Hooper said. "Especially as it relates to Dr. King, it's about giving back. If not for him, I would not be where I am."
The Army officer went on to explain that he attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and done graduate studies at Harvard University.
King not only helped clear the way, he inspired a young black man to aspire to excellence, Col. Hooper said.
Col. Hooper said he learned a message of peace from King: not to let anyone bully any American, regardless of color.
The symposium and talent show at the Watha T. Daniels Public Library in Northwest was sponsored by the Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Day Committee Inc. to honor the civil rights leader's legacy and to teach 100 youngsters about his heroic efforts.
Col. Hooper focused on the ongoing war on terrorism, using a simple analogy about a bully who constantly picks on others.
Then, the congenial speaker asked his audience whether they thought the bully should be punished. He told the tots and teen-agers that is what our country is doing in Afghanistan "America is stopping a bully," he said.
King also fought a war on terrorism, he added.
"His way was through faith in God and the goodness of our country. And, King was just as successful," Col. Hooper said.
He enlisted the help of his young audience in the war on terrorism by directing them not to be afraid, to be good students and to take care of each other.
Snow and sleet could not prevent Col. Hooper, who lives in Alexandria, from attending the King symposium. Whenever he has an opportunity to speak to children about King, he said, he will be there.
Another speaker, Linda Jones of Howard University, talked about early educational preparation. Joyce Robinson Paul, of Youth Crime Watch in Northwest, discussed preventing violence among youth.
Carrington Lassiter, an eighth-grader at Friendship Edison Jr. Academy in Northeast, came to the event with the Northeast Performing Arts Group. Carrington might be just 13, but the King legacy isn't lost on him.
"He was a great man who fought for the black community's freedom and for equal rights for blacks. It's an honor for me to be here. I want to set an example for young people so they believe in themselves," Carrington said.
Along with the speeches, children and parents were entertained and educated for two hours in a conference room inside the library.
Michael "Majik the Entertainer" Joseph served as master of ceremonies for the Youth Symposium and Talent Show. He performed songs and magic tricks that kept the children glued to their seats.
The Northeast Performing Arts Group wowed the audience, as did the Youth Crime Watch poets and singers.
Throughout the afternoon, Mr. Joseph, 32, asked questions about King and black history. Every correct answer brought a prize.
That's all it took to encourage one little girl in a fuschia sweater seated in the front row.
Where, Mr. Joseph asked, was King assassinated in 1968?
The little girl's hand flew up. Then she drew a blank but only for a moment. She got a quick assist from the affable MC, who whispered the answer Memphis in her ear.
"Yes, I gave away some answers," Mr. Joseph said, laughing.
"[But] I'm here to help educate. Dr. King always talked about peace and equal opportunity," he said. "So, I'm reminding children, whatever they are going through, to always stay focused, be respectful and stay humble. Don't let anyone or anybody ruin your day."
Walter Young, 14, attended with his organization, Youth Crime Watch. It was an opportunity he didn't want to miss. King's "I Have a Dream" speech affected the eighth-grader, who attends Elliott Junior High School in Northeast, in a profound way, he said.
"He was a man of his word. I very much liked his speech. Because of Martin Luther King Jr., [blacks] can sit at the front of the bus," Walter said of the successful bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., organized by King in 1955.

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