Guard’s annual Diversity Day held to eliminate ‘biases and stereotypes’

Written by  //  June 30, 2011  //  Feature Stories

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (June 30, 2011) — An estimated 400 people attended the 2011 Diversity Day program at the Robert F. Ensslin Armory on Wednesday, making the second year of the event even more successful than the first, according to the Florida National Guard Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office.

The Florida National Guard and Department of Military Affairs Annual Diversity Day program is designed to promote National Guard diversity initiatives as well as meet objectives of the EEO Special Emphasis Programs. This year’s program titled “Your Passport to Adventure” featured 11 areas of focus, ethnic food samplings and a plethora of entertainment for the attendees.

A Polynesian hula dancer performs during the Florida National Guard's 2011 Diversity Day in St. Augustine, Fla., June 29, 2011. Photo by Debra Cox

“Diversity Day provides a conduit for employees to explore the wide range of diversity that exists in the Florida National Guard and Department of Military Affairs,” said State Equal Employment Manager Lt. Col. Valerie Mueck. “Through increased education and understanding, biases and stereotypes that often lead to prejudice and employment discrimination can be diminished or eliminated.”

The five-hour program this year included informational displays on: Native American Heritage; Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage; German Heritage; Black History; Irish and Scottish Heritage; French Heritage; Women’s History; Hispanic Heritage; the Middle East; Italian Heritage; and Disability Awareness. Entertainment included a bagpipe player, Cajun music, Polynesian hula dancers, a traditional Irish dancer, and an African-American military history presentation.

“Some people who mention diversity focus on race, some focus on country of origin, and some focus on gender,” said Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. during the program. “And all that is correct. But I think diversity means so much more than that. I think diversity is actually a recipe for unity.”

According to the Florida National Guard EEO Office, a “Day of Diversity” is not a national event, but is held in Florida in a manner similar to other National Guard EEO programs across the country. The multicultural program includes legislated or mandated, as well as non-legislated Special Emphasis Programs (SEPs) which focus attention on specific groups as a result of a particular law, regulation or Executive Order.

“Most attendees felt that this was the best diversity program we’ve had,” said Mueck. “We’ve expanded it this year to be more inclusive. We hope that people left this year’s program with the idea that differences shouldn’t be divisive, but should create strength. This program is meant to help break down some of the stereotypes and barriers that exist.”