By Sgt. Takita LaweryFebruary 17, 2017
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing their contributions.
Traci Scott's contributions as an African American in the world of politics did not come without sweat and hard work. Her trials and tribulations contain an important lesson about holding on to one's perseverance and dreams.
"My charge in life is to share my experiences, knowledge and mistakes -- to help those in the generation behind me to grow as they are going along in their careers," she said.
Scott, the 1st Infantry Division regional liaison officer, was born on Lajes Air Base in the Azores, just off the coast of Portugal. Her father, Jesse H. Scott, was an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen and served in the Air Force. When he retired, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Later, after Scott's parents divorced, she moved to Japan with her mother and Air Force stepfather.
Scott credited her dad as having a huge influence in her decision to enter into broadcast journalism and political science. At the age of six her dad used to make her watch the news and shows such as "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation" (she would later serve as an intern at "Face the Nation") and tell him her thoughts about what the discussion of the day was even on topics she didn't always understand.
"You have to listen past what a person is saying," her father would say.
Scott realized she wanted to study journalism and political science. She continued her Sunday ritual with her dad throughout her college years and into the early days of her career, until her dad died in 2000.
The most encouraging words Scott remembers came from her father.
"'You are standing on the shoulders of giants,'" she said. "To me, it meant others have gone before you, they have paved a way, so you remember their strengths and sacrifices as you are making your way."
Howard University in Washington, D.C., was Scott's college of choice when she returned to the U.S. from Japan.
Because of the color of her skin, Scott said people discouraged her throughout her studies and said she was wasting her time. Scott nevertheless kept pushing herself to accomplish her goals.
Scott said one college instructor said she needed to have a back-up plan because she was overweight, unattractive and was careless of her appearance, so she was not going to make it in the political business. At the time, Scott thought the instructor obviously knew what she was talking about since she was a former White House correspondent.
The teacher's statement didn't make Scott's goal any easier.
"Her comments stung, so of course I was hurt and embarrassed, but I took it as a challenge," Scott said.
Scott started out as an intern for CBS News which later landed her a permanent associate producer spot on the news set, where she worked for more than 11 years and covered presidential campaigns and inaugurations. After leaving CBS, she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, to pursue news reporting. She then went on to work as a communications director for different politicians.
"I've gained a different perspective by switching to politics and I can admit that I really enjoyed being on the inside as policy and decisions were developed," Scott said.
From the news business to the White House to Capitol Hill to the Pentagon and war zones, Scott has held many political positions and has met many significant celebrities and politicians on the way.
"I have been very blessed in my career to have traveled around the world," she said. "I've had some amazing experiences and met some really incredible people."
Scott's fondest Black History moment was in 1988 when she was working for CBS and was assigned to cover the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington, one of the most historic moments of the Civil Rights movement.
"Traci, look, there's Coretta Scott King!" one crewmember said.
Scott looked and was filled with awe and admiration.
"She was walking up the steps and she looked so cool," Scott said. "Not in the slang sense of the word, but it was a hot day in August in Washington and she had on a suit and looked beautiful -- almost regal. I kept staring at her and thought, 'wow.'"
After more than 15 years in the news business and the world of politics, Scott decided to serve her country, although not in uniform.
"While I was working for a senator, he encouraged all of us to give back to our country," Scott said.
In 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom I began, she decided that would be her opportunity to serve as press officer in Iraq under Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority. After she left Iraq, she went to work in the Pentagon and went on numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan with members of congress. But after so many trips she had the realization that she was ready for a more stable environment.
"After six years of going in and out of war zones with all the security threats and issues, I just had this moment where I realized I was just done," she said. "I have been overseas more times than I could count."
Someone Scott previously worked for told her and a group of her peers to take all that they learned and go back to their hometowns and share it with the people there.
"I took that to heart," Scott said. "I followed my heart. I have learned so much that it would be selfish not to share it with those that are coming up behind me."
In 2009 a job opened at the 1st Inf. Div. at Fort Riley and Scott was interested. Moving back to the Midwest was close to Kansas City, where she grew up. She said changing the scenery from Washington, D.C., to Kansas was just what she needed.
"I was ready to get out of D.C, so it was perfect timing," she said. "I moved to Kansas and really love it."
Scott has worked for the "Big Red One" as a regional liaison officer since 2009 and has worked for a dozen different senior leaders and generals.
"I absolutely think the world of Traci Scott," said retired Col. Ralph L. Kauzlarich, former commander of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Brigade Combat Team. "She is one of the most strategic-minded, energetic and hardworking Department of the Army civilians I had the opportunity to work with in my 26-plus year Army career. Her passion to ensure that Fort Riley and those that serve in the 1st Inf. Div. always look their best to the great American public was demonstrated from the first day she joined the Big Red One Team in 2009."
With the help of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, in 2015 Scott started a nonprofit organization, The Green Dress Project, which focuses on empowering young girls from underserved communities or those who may not otherwise have the means or resources learn how to transition into and maintain integrity in a professional environment and avoid career ending mistakes.
"The Green Dress Program brings together everything I have learned and experienced in my career that I wish someone would have taught me -- I might have avoided some of the stupid mistakes I made."
For Scott, the Green Dress Project was born out of personal professional missteps, frustration and a deep desire to help provide young girls with tools to help guide them toward early success in their careers.
"You know you are on a path to success when you help others to succeed," she said.
Scott holds workshops bi-annually for females from the age of 15 and older. She chose green because it resembles go, meaning going forward into ones career. Green is also the color of inexperience. And finally, green is her way of honoring the men and women in uniform that she serves every day.
"I'm so grateful to be able to serve those who serve."