By Alex McVeigh, Pentagram staff writerMarch 24, 2009
Men and women at the Army Test and Evaluation Command gathered Tuesday to celebrate Women's History Month. The afternoon featured a performance by soul group Lenny and the Passions, as well as a speech by Cathy L. Lanier, Washington, D.C. Chief of Police. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, the multi-purpose room at ATEC was decorated with green balloons, but the walls were also adorned with posters commemorating famous women who contributed to history. The theme of the afternoon was also keeping in the green theme, "Women taking the lead to save our planet." In addition to the more than 100 Soldier and civilians who attended, 58 students from Arlington's Randolph Elementary School were treated to an inspirational and entertaining program. Sgt. 1st Class Cynthia Pearson, Equal Opportunity Advisor for ATEC gave the opening remarks, and then a brief video was played over the projector screen. The video featured women's contributions to America from its early days to today. Whether it was a sketch of Abigail Adams, a black and white photo of Coretta Scott King or a grainy color photo of the first "Take Back the Night" marches, no one watching could fail to realize the many impacts women have made on our history and our present. Lenny and the Passions, a local soul group, took the stage next. Dressed in white blazers, red shirts, red pants and red shoes, they sang a variety of music from the golden age of Motown. They sang several Temptations songs, as well as a cover of Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is'" Lanier took the stage to a standing ovation. She recapped her life, from having a son and getting married at age 15, to the day D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty asked her to become Chief of Police in November of 2006. She credited her mother and grandmothers, calling them "the two strongest women I know," and stressed the importance of mothers in helping their children realize their potential. "A lot of what I have comes from my mother," Lanier said. "I look around D.C. and I see a lot of strong women that make things happen." As one of only three Chiefs of Police in a major city (soon to be two, as the San Diego police chief is retiring soon), Lanier has quite a busy schedule, but she wanted to be sure to make it to ATEC. "I get a lot of requests, and I can't be everywhere, but I saw what ATEC does, both for our country and for law enforcement, and I knew I had to come here," Lanier said. After Lanier spoke, Lenny and the Passions returned to the stage, but they wouldn't let her relinquish the stage quite yet. During a version of "My Girl," singer Leonard Smith gestured to Lanier, and they shared a few dance steps, much to the delight of the crowd. After the song, Smith and the rest of the group presented Lanier with a bouquet of flowers. Lanier's message was not lost on any of the attendees, especially some of the wounded warriors brought in from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "It's amazing what she's been through," said Capt. Clare Pavey. "I really needed some uplifting support, and a story about a strong woman's survival is really an inspiration." The fact that Lanier was a high-school drop-out gave the children from Randolph Elementary a fine example, and showed Soldiers that anything is possible. "She's an example that there is no such thing as a barrier," said Staff Sgt. Casandra Aruizu. "I've got a daughter, and I want her to know that there's always a second chance, and I hope to pass on that inspiration to her."