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The one thing we all have in common

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As many of you know, Sunday marks the beginning of Black History Month, the second of several such Department of Defense special events we will celebrate throughout the year (the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was celebrated last week). None is any more "important" than the others.

I know many of you may be thinking that we - as a nation - have "outgrown" the need for these kinds of theme months. We are more diverse than at any other time in our nation. More and more women and minorities are running for - and winning local, state and national elections.

So why then, do we continue to have these "special" months solely devoted to Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Asian / Pacific Americans, American Indians and for our disabled work force?

The answer is simple: because we still need them. Even though we have come a long way in the "big picture" diversity issue, we're not all the way there. Yet. But I truly believe we are heading in the right direction.

Look around at the faces in our commander's calls, in our conference rooms, and in our formations. This is not your father's - or your mother's - Air Force anymore.
"The times," as the song goes, "they are a changin."

If we take a second to consider our demographic make-up, we realize that our Air Force members are a direct reflection of our nation.

We are one. As diverse as America is, all of its peoples come together in an effort to form that more perfect union that our founders envisioned.

Part of establishing that more perfect union is reaching out across ethnic and cultural barriers to understand, appreciate and even embrace our differences.

And please, let's not forget that these observances we hold are much more than book sales, picture displays, luncheons, proclamation signings and guest speakers.

That's why I am asking all supervisors - military and civilians - to encourage their people to become interactive within each and every observance - and not just a mere observer. You'd be surprised what you can learn when you step into someone else's shoes ... and see things from their perspective.

Americans have always been proud of their diverse ethnic origins. These themed-months provide opportunities for different groups to celebrate their heritage and share their traditions with fellow citizens. It's an opportunity to share and learn. With the key being that the more you learn about someone else, the more you see yourself in them.
To put it bluntly, diversity in the Air Force - and in all branches of military service - is a true force multiplier.

I remember reading once that diversity is the one true thing we all have in common; celebrate it every day. And we shall continue to do just that. Thanks again Sharks, for all you do!