Accept, Impact, Act
By Chief Master Sgt. Vegas Clark, 39th Air Base Wing Command Chief
/ Published February 17, 2016
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- One of the most historical times in U.S. history was when Congress passed legislation to abolish slavery in the, "land of the free" on Jan. 31, 1865. Fast forward to more than a century later, African Americans achievements are annually celebrated when President Gerald R. Ford formally recognized Black History Month in 1976. As we head into February and celebrate African-American history, I ask that each Titan reflect on the past, but also continue to promote diversity in their respective work centers.
There have been many contributors to our American history, and many have been made by African-Americans. For example, Edward Bouchet was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in any subject; he received a physics doctorate from Yale University in 1876. Additionally, Patricia Bath was the first African-American female physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. Her inventions relate to cataract surgery and include the Laserphaco Probe, which revolutionized the industry in the 1980s. I don't believe anyone would argue that these important achievements were inspirational and made our country much stronger.
I know we still have a ways to go before we reach complete equality for African-Americans in our country, and based on recent headlines some might say we're headed in the wrong direction. I believe this country has made great strides when it comes to rights for African-Americans, women, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community and other minority groups, but we still need to work toward true equality for every citizen.
One organization I would like to highlight does a great job with promoting equality ... and that's the United States Air Force! I've served for more than 20 years and have seen some phenomenal Airmen execute the mission. Some of those Airmen were African Americans serving in key positions that made a positive impact on those crucial missions as well such as generals, commanders, chiefs and first sergeants. So when it comes to diversity, it makes you wonder what the Air Force gets right that other organizations fail at. Overall, we have the one common requirement that makes us diverse and great, it's the one thing that exceeds above all other important factors. That one thing is PERFORMANCE. It is at the core of our DNA as Airmen; you have to do your job well in order for us to be successful. If you have the most ability to serve at the next grade, you will get hired, promoted and recognized. It doesn't matter what your sex, race, color or religion is. Just exhibit integrity, service before self and excellence in all that you do!
As we reflect on the important achievements of African Americans throughout our history, we should all pause and look inward and analyze diversity in our respective workplaces. Do you respect others and their backgrounds? Does this inclusion and acceptance creep in the conversation when you are making day-to-day decisions about your personnel? Although this month is about reflection, the main point I want to drive home is that it should also inspire each of us to accept, impact and most importantly ... ACT!