Dear guest, honorees, Colonel Christine Knighton and Dr. Ben Latigo, coalition president—Mamie Mallory, and family--I am very honored and humbled to be here this evening. I am delighted to have the opportunity to take part in yet another outstanding training conference sponsored by the National Coalition of Federal Aviation Administration Employees. The coalition’s president, Mamie Mallory does an incredible job—always vigilant, focused, and dedicated to lifting and helping others. You could not have a more dedicated and committed leader. Mamie and the rest of the Coalition’s outstanding leadership team has led the coalition in making meaningful, important contributions to the careers of its members who help enable the FAA to fulfill its mission. And additionally I would like to say to you that I am proud to witness first hand your efforts that have served to successfully preserve the fine legacy of excellence and extraordinary achievement of those that came before us while showing us a future that we all can embrace. (Pause)
This privilege of recognition that you have granted to me tonight is so very special to me. (Pause) You see, I grew up in a small town in the south named Tuskegee and there was a man there that I knew—a man the whole town knew who was and yet still remains a giant. He was idolized by many and friendly and kind to all. This was a man who only lived a short distance away from 1900 Howard Road where I grew up and whose children attended the same school that I did. His youngest son recently shared this with me in reflecting about his father: “His world included everyone--from the bench warmer to the superstar—his heart valued them all equally and highly; you would never know he was-- who he was-- simply because he never wore-- who he was--on his sleeves; and he was always interested in what you were doing and willing to lend a helping hand if needed.” This reflection accurately points to the man I knew and the man who was so highly regarded in our community. He took another of my childhood friends, Palmer Sullins, under his wing at the age of nine (9) and taught him to fly an airplane— this I know was a precious gift to Palmer and when I reflect back at this gift my friend received I’m not necessarily focused on the gift of the knowledge and skills to fly an airplane, which unquestionably is a great and wonderful gift, but I am talking about what I see as the more important gift -- the gift to know, as a young black boy growing up in the South, that dreams with desire can and do in fact come true if you are willing to work hard at it and don’t ever lose sight of your goal. My friend Palmer went on to become a very accomplished pilot in the Army National Guard. Palmer recently told me that when he reflects back on this man he sees a man who was like a father to him, a true one-of-a-kind who had a clear vision of what he wanted to do in life and who throughout his life remained committed and dedicated to his profession-especially to blacks in his profession. He would be so proud to see so many employees who everyday support aviation and take pride in being associated with the safest system in the world. (Pause)
Charles Alfred--“Chief”—Anderson was the “Guru of Flight in the South”, the master builder and chief architect of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a man dedicated and committed to his craft, who taught us that we could be whatever we wanted to be if we simply dared to dream and had the courage to go forth in pursuit of our dreams-- in spite of the obstacles—obstacles that we all have faced and experienced at one time or another and will no doubt continue to face. When I reflect back on this great American pioneer and hero—our hero—I see a man of great courage, passionate humility, undeniable determination, unwavering commitment, and unbridled love, who’s life and career was and is an inspiration to us all.
Chief Anderson left for us a lasting example of excellence and achievement and as I look out into this audience this evening I see the faces of those who have embraced Chief Anderson’s legacy—those who are committed, and dedicated, and courageous, unrelenting givers to our race and to our nation—and I will leave it up to you to decide if you are humble (smile). I say to you –continue, never stop. Remain vigilant, steadfast, and dedicated to the creation and realization of a future that continues to bring forth a highly trained, motivated, high performing workforce of black Federal Aviation Administration employees. Continue to remain committed and dedicated to the creation and realization of a future that brings about greater opportunities for advancement and more leaders in FAA—and as you grab hold of the reigns of leadership be sure to make it your desire and commitment to model for others the qualities that made Chief Anderson great. Sometime the models around us may not be the best model; our assignment may require that we be the architect of a new model—a new model of leadership, ready, equipped, and agile to step forward into the future. We have been assigned the task of creating the future for others to follow. We must never forget who we are and where we come from. I am even more convinced after spending time in South Africa this summer that we as a people have been assigned a special role to play. You and I are where we are at this point in our history and the history of our nation for a reason—and of course only God knows the complete reason. But as one of God’s children, I would venture that at least one of the reasons is to model the kinds of things He stood for—to stand steadfastly, resolute, determined—yet considerate, honest, and showing integrity even in the face of difficulties that would turn the faces of most men and women the other way. Draw your strength from the greater strengths of others.
We must continue to remain committed and dedicated to a future that continues the legacy of Chief Anderson, and other of our great heroes and sheroes like --Bessie Coleman, the first black woman pilot, who was stubborn enough and brave enough to stand alone and not compromise her dream simply because her dream was ahead of its time, --General Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who as a young man eager to break the stifling bonds of segregation courageously bore upon his shoulders the hopes of future black aviators as he ventured into the midst of harm’s terrible way over European battlefields, and –Dr. Mae Jemison, the great scientist, physician, and astronaut, who by becoming the first black woman to venture into space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor demonstrated what some of us have known all along—what Bessie Coleman knew—what General Ben Davis knew--and what we all should know by now--that the brilliance and capabilities of people of color is without limit. There are many other truly great African-America pioneers in aviation and of course I must add…space, whose accomplishments and great legacies I don’t have time to mention—there are many I am certain right in this room. We stand where we stand only (pause) only because those that came before us were willing and able to bear our weight--and allow us to stand on their shoulders. Stand strong and bold in the face of adversity and uncertainty, because like those that have come before us, we too must stand and allow others to stand on our shoulders. I thank Chief Anderson for allowing me to stand on his shoulders this evening. And I thank all of you who have spent your careers at the FAA for making a way for those like me to follow.
Lastly, I would like to say to you-to build a future to embrace is to remember Edward J. Brown from Route 29, outside Charlottesville, VA—a Hamlet called Profit—who said and I quote “We black people are like mountains. We are going to be here forever. And there is time to build, to be decent, to work hard, to live with one woman rather than twenty (Remember, I’m quoting Mr. Brown-smile). We are a forever people who get tossed off the tracks a bit, but watch us as we get back on!!” It’s because of people like Mr. Brown, now 105, that let’s me know that no matter what tomorrow brings, where ever we are in the aviation system, where ever we are in those spaceways we are currently building, whatever our position—watch us get back on!!
Again, I am truly honored to be here to receive this recognition. I thank you and may God bless you all.