EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The theme to this year's Asian Pacific American Heritage event is "Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion." America is truly multicultural, a "mosaic" instead of a "melting pot" with a mixture of various ingredients that keep their individual characteristics instead of being blended together.
I was born and raised in the Philippines and am from American, Hawaiian, Spanish, Chinese and Filipino decent. As a young boy, I remember the stories my parents and relatives would tell about their experiences during World War II. My grandfather's home in Leyte became the headquarters for Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the liberation period while he was in an internment camp. My dad was a guerilla who fought against the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, captured, beaten as a POW, and later liberated. I also had several uncles that were a part of the Bataan Death March. It was important for them to tell me these "stories" knowing that a lot of their personal experiences would not be found in history books.
Embracing cultural values and inclusion utilizes the diversity of ideas, experiences, talents, languages and cultural backgrounds. I was fortunate to gain personal insight from Col. Geoffrey Ellazar, Air Force Test Center, director of contracting; Auline Platt, a military spouse; and Eseta Lofton, Asian Pacific American, on their view of this year's theme and how they apply it to their daily lives. Born and raised in Hawaii, Ellazar said "I've been blessed to have been raised in an extended family that celebrated its Filipino, Hawaiian and Chinese heritages. I am thankful to my benefactor Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop whose generous legacy to indigenous children of Hawaii gave me the everlasting gifts of a quality education, appreciation for being Hawaiian, and the strong desire to serve a greater purpose."
Platt, born and raised in the Philippines, attributes her qualities to family, faith and upbringing. According to Auline, "One must understand the importance of obligation, duty and service. If you do it with joy - life is complete." She was described to me as a person with "very good perspective on servant-leadership as she gives so much to the community and society, with sincerity, humility and generosity."
Eseta Lofton was born and raised in Samoa. Her grandfather was a Samoan High Talking Chief for the village and her dad was raised by King Malietoa Tanumafili, then King of Samoa. She said, "I felt privileged to be the only one of seven children exposed to the old Samoan culture. I enjoyed growing up sitting behind my grandfather's chair during High Chief meetings and learning the privileged High Chief's language."
The four of us are very different people with different personal, professional, and career paths, but similar in many ways. A famous scholar once said, "Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult." I hope you share my view on America being more of a "mosaic" instead of a "melting pot." Embrace your cultural values and keep telling that story for generations to come. Mahalo...
The 6th Annual Asian Pacific American Cultural Day will be held May 23, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Airman and Family Readiness Center located in Bldg. 5620 (same as the Conference Center). This year's festivities include:
- Culinary samples from Guam, Hawaii, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Samoa, Thailand, and Vietnam
- Cultural dances, instrumental performances, and songs from Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and Samoa
- Samurai sword demonstration
- Sumo wrestling featuring Edwards First Sergeants
- Fear Factor food tasting featuring Edwards Commanders
Tickets are $7 (children 10 and under are free) and are available for presale or at the door. If you have any questions about the event, please contact Master Sgt. Michelle Wolff at Michelle.Wolff@edwards.af.mil or at (661) 277-3272.