By Col. Deborah B. GraysApril 9, 2009
Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- April is Celebrate Diversity Month, and in that spirit I encourage each of you to work to gain a greater appreciation of the diversity of cultures, backgrounds and life experiences of those around you, as well as the many similarities that unite us all as Soldiers, Families and Americans.
At the beginning of this month, the Army chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., administered the enlistment oath to 16 immigrants in Times Square, New York City, marking the start of a journey many of these new Soldiers never thought possible.
Under a new program called the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, certain temporary immigrants can enlist in the United States armed forces, bringing with them a much- needed understanding of foreign cultures, languages, and customs. In Gen. Casey's words, "Our diversity only strengthens us."
No other nation in the world can boast such a diverse population; it is this diversity and the contributions of men and women of every race, culture and religion that will sustain our nation's character and strength into the future.
From its very birth, America has been a nation of immigrants, and one that strove for tolerance and equality regardless of heritage.
While America has seen some challenging times with regard to implementing and achieving such tolerance, we have, nonetheless, emerged as a nation in which anything is possible.
Celebrate Diversity Month is about opening dialogues that foster an appreciation of the differences that separate us, as well as the similarities that unite us. We may look different, speak differently and practice different customs, but we all have something valuable to contribute.
In many ways, these very differences are what make America "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Even during one of the most divisive times in our nation's history, the Civil War, both the North and South claimed the "Star Spangled Banner" as their own national anthem.
As Americans, we share a bond stronger than any geographic, demographic, ethnic or cultural loyalty.
Over the past few months, we have celebrated several nationally designated history and heritage observances and have recognized the unique contributions of each. Celebrate Diversity Month is about everyone; it unites each of these histories and heritages into one celebration of everything that makes each of us unique and different.
As you go through your day, take time to notice the diversity in your life and workplace and appreciate the strength it brings us all as a nation. I encourage you to create for yourselves and those around you a culture in which diversity is celebrated, appreciated and encouraged; for it is our differences that unite us as Americans.
It is our unity that enables us to appreciate our diversity. Together, unity and diversity form the bedrock of our nation's strength and are vital to our nation's future.