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Racial Harmony Important for DoD's Future Success

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., May 20, 1999 – "Harmonious race relations will continue to grow in importance for us as Americans because we're becoming ever more diverse as a nation," Fred Pang said here during DoD's first forum on Asian Pacific American affairs May 17.

Pang, former assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, was the keynote speaker at the event, which highlighted the 20th annual observance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The forum was conducted in conjunction with events sponsored by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The council's agenda included a reception at the State Department in honor of Asian Pacific American veterans of World War II. DoD also participated in a congressional seminar on Capitol Hill and a national leadership training conference.

Pang said roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population today is African American, 12 percent Hispanic and 5 percent Asian or Native American. "This sums to 29 percent of our population, and census projections indicate that by the year 2050, what we call minorities in the aggregate will pass the 50 percent mark," said the retired Air Force colonel. "But even with these changes, America will not look like the world of which it is a part."

If the world was mathematically reduced to a village of 100 people, Pang said there would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans and 14 people from Western Hemisphere (North and South America). There would be 70 nonwhite people, 70 non-Christian and half of the wealth would be in the hands of six people -- all from the United States. Seventy people would be unable to read, 50 would be malnourished, 80 would live in substandard housing and only one would have a college education.

"We need to take this into account as we look inward at the demographic changes we'll experience and determine how we can use our growing diversity to lead in a world that we don't represent," Pang said.

Calling that the "big picture," he then told the multiracial audience how to help lead and make a difference in breaking through the barriers of race and gender discrimination.

"Individuals have the option of either controlling their own destiny or having someone else control it for them," Pang said. Those who are comfortable following the will of others and are happy letting someone else control their destiny need to make dramatic changes in their attitude if they hope to achieve success, he said.

"That's not to say we shouldn't rely on others to help us," Pang noted. "We rarely achieve success entirely on our own. We need the help of others: those who work for us, with us and those we work for. The key is to know when to rely on yourself and when you need to rely on others around you."

Pang said most people don't want to be the center of attention all the time, "but neither do they want to be a faceless bureaucrat or an anonymous member of the team."

"If you want to succeed, you need the support of the people you work with, and they can't support you if they don't know who you are," Pang said. And, he added, marketing oneself is also key to succeeding professionally.

"In other words," he said, "let people know who you are, what you stand for and how you can help the team. You can't put on a false face and try to be someone you aren't, because people see through that pretty easily. You need to have a good self image and project that to others "

Francis M. Rush Jr., acting assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, also participated in the forum. He emphasized that "equal opportunity is for everyone and must apply to all equally." He said immigrant and indigenous Asian and Pacific Islanders have contributed to every facet of American life, yet they've "endured discrimination as our society struggled with its growing diversity."

"As the population of our nation becomes increasingly racially, ethnically and culturally diverse, one of DoD's goals is to 'create an environment that values diversity and fosters mutual respect and cooperation among all persons,'" Rush said, quoting Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen's remarks in his 1998 DoD Human Goals Charter.

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