(02APR17) New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, so coming to New London, Connecticut was a bit of a culture shock. However, there are ways to discuss the concept of diversity and the Academy dedicates one week, Eclipse Week, to these discussions. Personally, Eclipse Week is one of my favorite events because I see it as a way to share stories and perspectives that people wouldn’t normally share. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in classes, sports, and drill that anyone can get distracted from their roots, no matter where they’re from. I’ll be working on this blog over the course of Eclipse week, and I’ll try to do a mini-entry every other day. I’ll also try not to sugar-coat anything, because diversity isn’t something that can be taken lightly. It’s a real issue that goes beyond the Coast Guard, and something that I think we should all consider. Hope you like it!
(03APR17) This year’s theme is about “character” and who you are when no one’s watching. Conveniently, we had John Quiñones, an ABC News reporter and host of “What Would You Do?” come and speak to us today. He shared his story, his dreams, and the challenges he faced as a Latino-American. What I got from Mr. Quiñones is to never underestimate the value of empathy. Oftentimes when someone is being mistreated, the people who step in to help have had a similar experience and don’t want to see others suffer, even if they’re a complete stranger. Even more interesting was that, most of the time, the people had almost nothing in common, whether it is ethnicity, occupation, or even wealth. However, all it takes for people to take initiative is a single shared idea that they can all relate to.
(06APR17) This morning was my first Eclipse Event, organized by the Asian Pacific American Council (APAC). We had breakfast with Asian Coast Guard officers, ranging from Lieutenants from the class of 2015 to Admirals who have been in for a years, and had mentoring sessions over spam and rice. In the short time we had with them, I learned about life in the fleet, life outside the fleet, and I even got some financial advice. However, the most important thing I learned is that diversity makes a difference. I believe that people are visual beings, meaning that a lot of our actions and emotions are affected by what we see around us. Frankly, talking to Asian American officers was really just refreshing because I saw higher shoulder-boards on someone who looked like me. I found myself relating more and being more comfortable asking questions because we were raised under the same culture, and I think non-Asian cadets benefited just as much from seeing a new perspective.
(07APR17) Spectrum Council is the Coast Guard’s first official LGBTQ support group and they hosted a lunch panel about transgender people serving in the military. Along with the amazing number of people who attended, we had the opportunity to meet the Coast Guard’s first transgender officer. However, while we can celebrate the progress we’ve made after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), today’s panel highlighted the changes that will be necessary now that transgender people can openly serve as well. Of course, bathrooms are a prominent issue, but there also needs to be focus on teaching people what exactly “transgender” is and what we can do to help people during their transition, rather than pushing them away. It may be an awkward conversation at first, and some people may be uncomfortable just by reading this entry, but now is the time to adapt and improve our understanding of the changing world around us.
(08APR17) So what did I learn this week? I don’t even know where to start. It’s hard to present the concept of “diversity” without making it seem like another mandatory training we have to finish. It’s even harder to show why people should care about diversity issues because they may not see it as a priority, and the worst is when they say, “It’s not that bad.” However, the Coast Guard is a humanitarian service, and taking the perspective of others is one of the basics of our mission. As a Chinese American and member of the LGBTQ community, I truly appreciate how we’re at least making an effort to dispel obstacles and assumptions. Diversity will always be a hard topic and we all have different values, but we should value each other above all else.
More about Olivia.