PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Eighteen years after Maj. A.C. Roper graduated from the Equal Opportunity Advisors Reserve Component Course with distinguished honors, he delivered the keynote address to graduates of the same course as Maj. Gen. Roper during a ceremony at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 5, 2016.
The course teaches service members of all five military branches to be certified DoD Equal Opportunity Advisors.
During his speech, Roper, who as a Reserve Soldier is the commanding general of the 80th Training Command, and the Birmingham, Alabama, police chief as a civilian, reminded his audience of the racial issues between blacks and the Birmingham police department during the civil rights era. He also said that as a young cadet taking part in annual training, he witnessed a race riot within the unit he was assigned to.
"I'm thankful that times have changed," Roper said. "Even though there's much work to be done."
The focus of his speech was inclusive leadership which is the practice of including contributions from an organization's members at all levels.
"Regardless of your rank, status or your position, you're a leader and someone is watching you," he said. "You're a representatives of your commanders, so we need you to be their eyes and ears."
He told the graduates that inclusive leaders value people and relationships.
"Inclusive leaders put people first," Roper said. "Not the stats, not the technology, not the return on investment."
"Inclusive leaders value the differences because they recognize that in diversity there is strength," he added. "This means you should have someone in your circle who doesn't look like you."
He also said that inclusive leaders embrace change, they're disciplined, they cultivate a spirit of excellence, they maintain a spirit of accomplishment, they make an attempt to leave a legacy, and they have strong ethical foundations.
Sgt. 1st Class Katre Nicholson, EOA, 4th Brigade, 94th Training Division, said she plans on adopting Roper's recommendation that each graduate maintain a spirit of accomplishment by setting goals that support their organization, their commander and the Soldiers they serve.
"As leaders we need to be examples...we need to set goals and have a purpose to be able to help others," said Nicholson, who was one of four graduates from units across the 80th Training Command.