While traveling all over the United States, speaking to hundreds of thousands of sailors in the Navy, I met an incredible woman, Captain KC. Just before meeting Captain KC, she received honors for being the first Latina woman to make her rank within the Navy.
Excited about meeting Captain KC, I called a friend who serves in another branch of our military and told him all about how great she is. To my surprise, he was irritated.
“Why do they give awards based on ethnicity or gender? Awards like that only bring negative attention to the group; meanwhile, I`m working just as hard and not receiving these types of accolades,” he said with frustration in his voice.
A little thrown off by his reaction and no clear answer to share at the time, I quickly got off the phone and set out to learn why our military honors men and women on the basis of ethnicity and gender. I met Captain KC on the first day of a two-day event in California, so I was hoping to see her again the next day and gain clarification.
When I saw her, I quickly made my way over and asked, “Why does the military give out such awards? And, why is it important to you?” She was generous with her time as she helped me clearly understand the answer to both questions, which I think is the best answer to the question posed by The Post.
“When young men and women from the Latino community see me receiving recognition for my service, they hear my last name, see me and think `I can do that too.` ” If all they ever see is struggle and violence, that`s all they know. When they see a fellow Latino achieve such success, hope is born for them.
So, what needs to be done to help more of these young people succeed in school and get college degrees? Said simply, mentors and role models. Just as the articles suggest, many of these young people are growing up in rough neighborhoods, absent of parental guidance — they`re off working hard to keep the bills paid. Fortunately, America is filled with amazing people who can lend a hand and serve as a mentor.
Some of the most talented people come from rough beginnings. When I think of U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants, I get excited for their future and all they will do for our country. These young people are diamonds undergoing serious compression — no doubt they shine brightly as they wake up to their brilliance.
To see on Wash Post.com: http://views.washingtonpost.com/on-success/panelists/misti_burmeister/2009/12/hope_is_born.html