Coast Guard Diversity Summit 2010 – First update

The audience participated in an interactive survey by selecting answers with a remote keypad and the results of each question were immediately shown on the screen.  (Photo by Petty Officer Dan Bender)

The audience participated in an interactive survey by selecting answers with a remote keypad and the results of each question were immediately shown on the screen. (Photos by Petty Officer Dan Bender)

At the 2010 Diversity Summit there’s already been a ton of information presented by some very engaging speakers.  The event has so far lived up to its billing of discussing diversity in the broadest sense possible.  Presenters have approached the topic not just through the lens of physical diversity but also through the many other attributes that make each individual unique.

The first presenter was Dr. David Campt, a senior policy advisor for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race.  Campt had the room’s complete attention as he led the guests in an interactive survey that highlighted many forms of diversity in the room.

Each person in the audience was given a small remote control-like device to respond to questions in the survey.  It covered everything from where each person was from to what they saw as the biggest challenges facing the Coast Guard.

“What’s important is helping them realize the many ways they’re diverse,” said Campt, “from their different backgrounds to their different perceptions.”

Lieutenant j.g. Sarah Janaro was impressed.  “I think we all know that we’re different but to see it and visualize it it has more of an impact,” she said.  She was also surprised by some of the commonalities the survey uncovered.  “Who knew that 40-year-olds use Facebook just as much as the younger demographics.

After members of the audience explored their individuality with Dr. Campt, Admiral Thad Allen addressed them as a team and explained how their differences made them stronger.  He framed the topic as a question of operational readiness.  [Video here]

Using the example of trying to stop a migrant-laden boat, he noted the importance of appreciating the other person’s perspective.  “At that point understanding Hispanic culture, understanding the Spanish language, becomes an operation imperative.”

Standing a mere 3' 8" tall, Peggy O'neil has a giant presence on stage as she encourages the audience to embrace their individuality.  (Photo by Petty Officer Dan Bender)

Standing a mere 3' 8" tall, Peggy O'neil has a giant presence on stage as she encourages the audience to embrace their individuality. (Photo by Petty Officer Dan Bender)

On the other hand diversity can also be an internal matter—something the keynote speaker, Peggy O’neil, knows all about.

Standing just 3′ 8″ tall, her mantra is to walk tall.  She had the audience in the palm of her hand from the beginning encouraging them to be proud of their individuality.  Her energetic talk didn’t let up for a second as she segued from self-effacing jokes to intensely personal stories of her own struggles.

“She is really passionate about her message,” said Senior Chief  Sean McDonald.  “You can succeed no matter what difficulties you face.”

Overall, it was an impressive day.  There were a lot of contrasting thoughts on diversity presented and all of them were valid.

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Lazaro summed it up best when he described the panel discussion from the morning.  “Everyone had a different definition of diversity,” he said.  “It just shows you how diverse diversity really is.”

Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the event.  You can find all of the posts in this series under the diversity tag.

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