Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. -- Every year around this time I'm approached by people with the same question. "Hey, Chief," they say, "why do we have to have Hispanic Heritage Month? Aren't we all Americans?" 

I never argue that a bit, but there's more to it. I'm sure you know we celebrate African-American/Black History Month in February, Women's History Month in March, Asian-Pacific Month in May, Hispanic Heritage Month in September and October, and Native American Month in November. The purpose of those observances is to educate those of us who don't know a lot abot those cultures and to acknowledge the contributions that those groups of people have made to our own American heritage. 

When you ask yourself what it is that makes America great, you'll find the answer is diversity. If you'll look around you (go ahead, no one's watching) you'll notice that what we call America is made up of people from all kinds of cultures, from different parts of the country or the world. 

We're all different, yet we're all the same. We share the same basic values that make us Americans. We're invested in making our country and the world a better place for all of us to live. We believe in a democratic system of government where the people have a say in what and how we live. 

What makes America great is that although we have different and diverse needs and desires, we've been able to combine all those differences to form one very diverse, but unified, family that allows us to be ourselves and expects us to accept each other. 

We used to talk about the American melting pot. An honorable idea, but I'm not sure it's attainable. Why? Because there is very little, if any, chance that we'll all "melt", that we'll all assimilate, that we'll all be the same, and I'm not so sure we all want to be the same. I think it was Gen. George Patton who said, "If two of us are thinking the same thing, we don't need one of us." There's a marked difference between thinking the same thing and thinking with the same purpose in mind. 

The concept of the American Salad Bowl comes closer to describing the culture we live in. The illustration of the salad bowl describes a dish that, as a whole, is its own entity, delicious and healthy. What gives that dish its flavor and wholesomeness is all of the different ingredients that make it one. Each ingredient adds its own contribution to the whole. Any part of it that's missing will affect the end result. 

Dr. Stephen Covey has said, "Unity is not sameness, it's complementariness." If we are to be united, we have to be willing to accept, appreciate and celebrate one another's differences. 

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, join the fun. Get involved. Make time to enjoy the various events scheduled throughout the celebration. You don't have to be of or know a lot about, the culture. The people who have labored hard to organize the events will gladly teach you and will welcome your support. You'll learn a lot and you'll find a kind of gratification you can't find elsewhere. The education you gain and the relationships you develop will make you better and they'll make America better. 

Together, we can go forward. ¡Adelante!