White House trip opportunity to celebrate diversity

By Airman 1st Class Bavandeep Singh: 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron

The White House hosted a diversity summit July 29-31 in Washington, D.C., in an effort to recognize the contributions of South Asian Americans and I was fortunate enough receive an invitation. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew what kind of honor it would be representing not just my branch of service, but also my cultural heritage. Being invited somewhere as notable as the White House, especially because I am a first-term airman, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The summit, titled “Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” commemorated the first time South Asian American military heritage was honored by the White House.

When we arrived at the White House our group was led in through the west gate, into the executive building. There were volunteers who greeted us, mostly college students, handing out programs of the summit itinerary.

Much was said about the events of Sept. 11 and how the South Asian culture was looked upon directly following that tragedy. I took comfort in knowing, from my cultural perspective, that the goal of this event was attempting to combat prejudice with service to our nation.

Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary, 317th Recruiting Squadron commander, spoke about how important diversity is within the military, and how different cultures affect its overall mission.

“This event was about inspiring American communities toward national service and building a closer relationship between military families and the broader American public,” said Chaudhary. “Diversity is what makes our nation strong, and in times of crisis, American service members have always led the way.”

Although cultural background is important, to me being an American comes first. It was humbling to see so many groups coming together and joining forces to develop solutions that will eventually help move the U.S. forward.

The event continued July 30, at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., where representatives from various colleges spoke about the need to support special needs children and how diversity plays a role in today’s higher education. College students attending the summit contributed ideas about how to support to military families and troops that are currently deployed, with special consideration to those of different backgrounds and cultures.

Overall it was a very interesting experience, receiving the opportunity to meet so many people who work in such high positions was inspiring.

With the information given, I know now that the entire country is working hard to find solutions to diverse issues we are facing as a nation. I won’t ever forget being a part of an event like this and I feel a stronger connection to the nation after coming together to discuss solutions that will impact future generations.