Throughout my Air Force career, I’ve cooked for, performed at and spoken at Asian-Pacific heritage festivities from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. With more than 18 million Asian-Pacific Americans from nearly 50 countries and ethnic groups, it can be a challenge to include every group, each with distinct languages, cultures, traditions and beliefs.
There is a common thread that weaves through the rich and diverse tapestry of the American experience. That thread is the shared optimism and dream of a better life in a country where all things are possible. This dream is not unique to Asian-Pacific Americans, but it is inherent to all who have come to America.
Today, more than 62,000 active-duty service members in the U.S. armed forces report themselves as Asian or Pacific-Islander. The leadership opportunities available to today’s service members, as well as more than 305,000 Asian-Pacific American veterans, would not have been possible without those who bravely served our nation before us. We can trace back to the War of 1812 and find “Manilamen,” a term used to refer to Filipino natives, who fought alongside Gen. Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans.
I owe a debt of gratitude to not only Asian-Pacific American veterans but also to Americans of all ethnicities who promote equality and inclusion. Mentorship and building leaders are not exclusive to a certain race or ethnicity. Mentorship is an inclusive gift that we are all empowered to capitalize on and provide. Throughout my career, my commanders and supervisors mentored me and gave me an opportunity to lead.
Power is the ability to make something or someone do something that they may not normally do. In our great country, everyone is empowered to take control of their own destiny and, through perseverance and intestinal fortitude, prevail over adversity. So I challenge you to be empowered, to act to do something that you normally may not do, and to do something extraordinary and realize your dreams.
Dream big like the reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who envisioned a world not based on the color of skin but on the content of one’s character. Dare to dream like veterans who have paved the way.
But while I dare you to dream, the greater challenge is to accept your empowerment and act on the dream. Whether your ethnic background is Asian, Pacific-Islander, African, European, Hispanic or Native-American, you are part of this country’s rich tapestry, and you can have a positive impact on our nation’s future. Diversity has made our nation and our military stronger. As Americans, we have all been empowered by this country’s legacy of freedom and opportunity. So dare to dream big; dare to act and promote diversity and inclusion.