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American hero, champion for Diversity and Inclusion

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Chalres W. Jackson, Jr., 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group superintendent
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing

It’s my honor to celebrate an American hero and champion for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the second of three children to Michael King and Alberta King. Dr. King was a graduate of a historically black college, Morehouse, the same school his father and grandfather attended. He was a Baptist minister and became a visible spokesman for the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. During this period, he traveled over six million miles, delivered approx. 2,500 speeches, advocated for social justice, redemption for the oppressed, diversity and inclusion. King also won the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct, 14, 1964, and he is the only non-president to have a national holiday in his name.

Today, I will focus on the concept of diversity and inclusion in the Air Force and its similarity to that of Dr. King’s. To begin, I want to clarify what the two terms mean.

Diversity is the practice of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds, different genders and sexual orientations. 

Whereas inclusion is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized due to physical or intellectual disabilities or members of minority groups.

The Air Force has woven these definitions of diversity and inclusion into its culture. These definitions draw directly from what Dr. King spoke of during the civil rights movement in the late fifties to late sixties. He understood that if we are to succeed as a nation, it is imperative for us to include all races in the discussion and stand together in the face of oppression.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. King

This is a lesson the Air Force understands and it is important for Airmen to know, diversity and inclusion are friends and not foes. They afford the Air Force an opportunity to make sound decisions based on the inclusiveness of all Airmen, diversity in thought, and offering a wide range of skill sets intended to better equip our service to solve complex issues from an innovative posture; thus, creating one of the most agile and lethal fighting forces in the world!

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Dr. King

Dr. King’s message emphasized his pursuit of justice and equality, and illustrates the importance of diversity and inclusion. 

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Dr. King

Standing for change in the face of prevalent opposition is one of the most difficult challenges we will face; yet, it’s one of the most rewarding. My belief is that one day, we as a nation will be free from the ignorance of racism and our children and grandchildren will live in a more accepting and understanding America.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Dr. King

Dr. King exemplified our Air Force core values of Integrity, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do.

Integrity led him to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Service before Self, as a result of his non-violent movement, led Dr. King to selflessly participated in marches, deliver speeches, and spend time in jail on behalf of the cause. His pursuit of Excellence in All We Do produced legislative and social change, culminating in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

After spending nearly four decades in the Air Force, I believe Dr. King would be proud of how far we’ve come; yet, he would emphasize there is still much work to be done. I cannot thank him enough for his service to humanity, the legacy he left behind and the example of making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can all live a better life. His message of diversity and inclusion resonates with the idea that we are stronger together than we are apart. Our nation is better because of Dr. King. 

We Airmen are a great example for our nation to aspire to. We come together from various parts of the country, with diverse backgrounds, cultures and values and are united for a common cause: the defense of our great and grateful nation.

Thank you Red Tails for your sacrifice, selfless service, and for upholding the Red Tail standard of excellence! Spit Fire….The legend lives on!”