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Success Leaves Footprints: DHA Observes Black History Month

Image of The Defense Health Agency celebrated Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion called, “success always leaves footprints.” The panelists shared stories of their cultural pride as black Americans and their perspectives on the lessons we can learn from studying black American history. The Defense Health Agency celebrated Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion called, "success always leaves footprints." The panelists shared stories of their cultural pride as black Americans and their perspectives on the lessons we can learn from studying black American history. (Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

"There's no point in doing something if you're not going to help the greater good… If you're creating a path, those who follow are that much further along the path."

This comment from Dr. Holly O'Reilly, program manager for the Defense Health Agency's sexual assault / women's behavioral health program management office, highlights the theme of the DHA's recent Black History Month observance.

O'Reilly and Kelisa Wing, chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Defense Education Activity joined the observance as members of a panel called "success always leaves footprints."

They shared their perspective on how black American culture has strengthened our national culture.

Stories of Cultural Pride

The black American leader Booker T. Washington once said, "Success always leaves footprints." He emphasizes how that the study of black American history provides lessons that support our nation's continued growth.

"Black Americans saw the flaws of America and knew there was work to do," O'Reilly stated as she shared her views on the significance of this observance. "They were committed to being part of the solution."

"They saw a vision for America that did not exist, one of equality and justice."

Wing reflected on studying the fullness of black American history, "It is all of our history, in its ugliness and its beauty. While we have a long way to go, we would be remiss not to honor the accomplishments of black individuals from our nation's history."

Honoring History's Lessons

What we now call Black History Month was first established by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926.

He wanted this observance to celebrate the achievements of black Americans as critical to the story of American history.

"Black history is American history," Wing added. "We are all in this together."

She highlighted the importance of establishing a culture that values diversity and inclusion, a value black Americans have fought for throughout history.

"This is a life-long journey of creating an environment of equity, diversity, and inclusion for everybody."

O'Reilly added that the achievements of black Americans have inspired others.

"Other groups, such as LGBTQ Americans and Asian Americans are using the civil rights movement as a model for success."

Leaving Our Own Footprints

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, DHA director added to the discussion, "We don't plant trees to enjoy the fruit, we do that for future generations."

O'Reilly and Wing mentioned being inspired by the black Americans who overcame bitter suffering to establish a nation that would help everyone, including future generations.

Wing, remarked, "No matter what black Americans have experienced systemically, we have always found a way to find something inside of whatever we were going through to still be free."

O'Reilly added, "It all boils down to the pursuit of a dream and persevering in the face of seemingly impossible odds."

Before the event concluded, DHA senior enlisted leader affirmed, "As we invest more in the talent of our people, the future of how black Americans can impact our great nation is limitless."

Black History Month invites us to honor the black Americans who have strengthened our national defense, health care system, and every other aspect of American culture. It encourages us to keep working to establish a just, inclusive, and stronger American culture for generations to come.

As Wing urged attendees, "Leave your footprints, make new footprints….leave footprints of success for the future to see."

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Last Updated: January 31, 2023
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