Texas Liberal

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2008 Houston MLK Parade—How About Fewer ROTC Marchers And More Honor Roll Kids

On Martin Luther King Day I attended the afternoon M.L.K Grande Parade in Houston that marched up and down Allen Parkway.

There is another parade that this year marched in the morning in Downtown Houston. There are two parades because the organizers of the parades are not mature enough to work out a longstanding dispute.

The marchers and the crowd at the King parade were people who love freedom and who love the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King.

Marchers came from as far away as Beaumont and Corpus Christi.

As good as the parade was, there are some points I’d make—

1. It would be better if more white people and more Asian and Hispanic people would attend the King parade.

2. Parade organizers should reach out to majority white schools in the Houston-area to send marching bands. Majority white schools in the Houston-area should contact parade organizers about sending marching bands.

3. When floats and marchers from local TV and radio stations pass by in the parade, the crowd should berate these people for the poor and mind-rotting programming that is broadcast.  

Houston Channel CW 39 had a float promoting the virtues of education. 

Here is a link to the programming schedule on the CW 39. 

The crowd should have yanked that float off the street.

4. I missed the first few minutes of the parade so maybe I have this wrong, but I did not see any marchers representing the Harris County Democratic Party.

5. This is my most important point–Martin Luther King would have wanted honor roll students and debate club students marching instead of ROTC kids.  Every year there are many ROTC marchers twirling around fake rifles at the King parade.

This is not consistent with the life and work of Martin Luther King.

If, as one example among many schools in the parade, the Barbara Jordan High School for Careers felt it just had to send an ROTC contingent, could they have not also sent the honor roll or straight-A students as well?

Is what I saw at the parade what the great Congresswoman Barbara Jordan would have wanted?

It would just take the application of a little bit of imagination for these schools to honor Dr. King more appropriately.

Please click here for a Martin Luther King Reading & Reference list.    

January 23, 2008 - Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , ,


  1. Re: This is my most important point–Martin Luther King would have wanted honor roll students and debate club students marching instead of ROTC kids. Every year there are many ROTC marchers twirling around fake rifles at the King parade.

    This is not consistent with the life and work of Martin Luther King.

    If, as one example among many schools in the parade, the Barbara Jordan High School for Careers felt it just had to send an ROTC contingent, could they have not also sent the honor roll or straight-A students as well?


    It is very unfortunate that you and many people feel ROTC students and honor roll students are 2 separate groups. When in fact if you see ROTC Students perform, they are allowed to because they have grades in high standing (A/B in order to perform) and many of them have honor roll or straight A students. Just because they wear a uniform does not mean they are not honor roll students.

    I think you misconstrue ROTC like many people do.

    My son is in an Air Force ROTC and it is a wonderful experience. I have to believe that Martin Luther King would fully agree with our High School Students being involved in an organization that has such high moral values and works diligently in community service. In order to participate in a drill squad, whether it is a Color Guard, un-armed or armed drill, or Saber squad – a student CANNOT participate in a competition or drill display unless his or her grades are in high standing (i.e. honor students). Further, if a student has bad conduct, they are not allowed to compete (i.e. no pass / no play). They also have Academic Teams as well as Physical Training teams that compete in tournaments…. so “armed drill with fake rifles” is a very small portion of what ROTC is about. Last of all – when an ROTC student wears his/her uniform and displays their rank and ribbons – these have been EARNED; Academic, Good Conduct, Service (community service), Color Guard, etc.; all have criteria that include grades in high standing in order to qualify to WEAR the ribbon. And Grades in high standing means grades in ALL classes, not just in ROTC.

    The next time you see an ROTC High School student, rather than simply seeing a “potential soldier” that you feel goes against King’s beliefs – instead I hope you see a young man or woman that is making good choices in High School rather than hanging out with the wrong crowd or getting lost in the system. They are standing up, standing tall, and being recognized! They have joined a team where they are recognized for their hard work, excellent grades, community service, good citizenship, high morals, physical fitness… all of the things that I have to believe Martin Luther King believed in.

    Unfortunately I know some “honor students” with A’s that don’t stand up when the U.S. Flag goes by, or are not respectful to the teachers. We all know there are outstanding athletes that cannot read. But if you see a ROTC cadet with a uniform full of ribbons – you better believe they are learning to be tomorrow’s leaders. Not just military leaders – because many of them will not continue a military career – but their experience in ROTC will prepare them for tomorrow regardless what career they chose. ROTC prepares them for life.

    My son is only a freshman and has dual ribbons in Academics, Conduct, and Attendance. He has Superior Performance (10% of all cadets receive), Service Award (for outstanding community service), Color Guard, Competition, and many others as well as a National Award “the Tuskegee Airman Award”. When he was in middle school I wouldn’t have encouraged him to join ROTC (I’m a single mom with one son – I don’t necessarily want him to be a soldier) – but allowing him his choice has made the world of difference in his High School experience and I am encouraging all parents with 8th grade students to think about ROTC for their child. I don’t worry about the kids he hangs around with, I know he will do his best in all of his classes, I know he will show respect at all times, I know this because he is a proud ROTC Cadet.

    Next time you see ROTC Cadets in an MLK Parade, or in any Parade… rather than assume they are NOT honor roll students, or are not on the debate team… I encourage you to take the time to meet some of the cadets, find out what their ribbons mean. I believe you when you do you will be pleasantly surprised as you will meet so many of the “Honor Students” that wear an ROTC Uniform; they carry the US flag, rather than a banner that says “we are honor roll students”. But I guarantee MOST of the cadets ARE honor roll students.. more importantly they are students of honor! What could be a more fitting tribute to the Martin Luther King Parade.

    Comment by Sara | April 8, 2008

  2. Sara–But why not just send the honor roll as the honor roll? I’m sure many of the ROTC kids do well in school. But that is not the point. King, I think, would not have liked the guns at a parade in his honor or the idea that another generation was being trained for war.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 8, 2008

  3. I had my son read my response, and he also saw your response. He wanted to respond this time.

    “I’m a freshman and I am still new to the program, however I know that the soldiers, airmen, marines, etc. that have served in the military and now teach ROTC classes are not there (at the schools) to prepare our generation for war or to specifically to become soldiers. It’s more about discipline, honor, respect, and integrity – to learn that we can be leaders too.

    Even though we are taking a “military” class doesn’t mean we all want to actually join the military.

    With regards to the rifles, they are a symbol of honor and respect to our fallen soldiers and veterans. They are used basically as tools in performances to honor people such as Martin Luther King. Not so much the war aspect as rifles are commonly mistaken for, but to show that we still remember others who have fallen or died before us, in the name of our country, and also of our civil rights.

    Also the rifle is used as a tool for a performance or demonstration. Just like a Martial Artist might be trained and skilled in swords or weapons – it doesn’t mean he would use them for harm. In fact I take Martial Arts, am a Black Belt in TKD, and I would never use my martial arts to cause anyone harm, much less use a weapon. It is a skill that I’ve learned, use in competition, and am proud of – and another source of my self-discipline.

    Again I am just a freshman, but please don’t take me lightly when I say ROTC is not a class to prepare your son and/or daughter for war, or to automatically take a route in the military.

    If I, being an ROTC Cadet for Color Guard or drill, were asked to perform in an MLK parade, parading a flag or rifle, I would consider it an honor and gladly accept.


    From mom: My comment would be first that ROTC cadets are not being trained for war. That is the furthest thing from it. Twirling a wooden rifle while marching in a drill is not “war”. And the reason to not JUST send the honor roll students – again – ROTC Cadets are proud, young Americans, proud for our freedom, proud to honor our country and honor our heroes such as Martin Luther King. This is part of what they do. They understand what a hero MLK was, and what he stood for – – and it is an HONOR to the students to be able to be there to HONOR him.

    I don’t disagree that more student groups could also be included such as debate team, honor students, etc… but I do think it would be a disservice to not allow the ROTC cadets an opportunity to do what they do best – honor great Americans before them.

    Comment by Sara | April 9, 2008

  4. continued…

    I am sure if you were to ask a School to have the ROTC unarmed drill or color guard to perform, they would be happy to comply.

    But I disagree and am offended with your comment “King, I think, would not have liked the guns at a parade in his honor or the idea that another generation was being trained for war”. Students in the ROTC are NOT being trained for war!? That is absurd. This is the United States and our Education System does not teach warfare to high school students!?!

    However, King, I think, would have liked the idea that the next generation was being taught more then just math, science, history and language arts at a high school level. I think he would have liked that some students – ROTC cadets – were also being taught, and graded on: Honor, Pride, Respect, Discipline, Team Work, Camaraderie, Neatness in Appearance, Manners… so many things that so many young people are lacking. I think, were Mr. King alive today, he would be proud to speak to ROTC cadets, encouraging them in the leadership skills they are developing as a result of ROTC in addition to their regular curriculum.

    The rifles are just part of a drill, a discipline or skill as my son said – it is a talent to be able to stay in synch with fellow cadets while marching.

    So I am just asking – don’t judge them by their uniform, it is military in appearance, but they are not “training for war”. They are training for life.

    I am in awe when I go to an ROTC Competition to see the pride they take as a group of young kids, pulling together, cheering each other on, helping each other succeed and encouraging one another and working together. It is a very proud moment for a parent to see their child be part of such a powerful organization.

    I believe their (ROTC Cadets) tribute to Mr. King, no matter what forum they choose – would be heartfelt and prideful – and that is the only kind of tribute fitting for Martin Luther King.

    Comment by Sara | April 9, 2008

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