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August 1, 2008

Diversity Through the Eyes of an Air Force Major

Heather Bohrer

Alaska. Seattle. Colorado. Boston. Germany. Alabama. Wichita. These are some of the places that Major James Eldridge Davis has lived throughout his life and his career in the United States Air Force. Each new place brought with it diversity issues that Major Davis had to deal with. He took time Wednesday evening to talk about these different diversity issues with a group of YPs at the Mosaic Coffee Talk. The setting for the talk was the offices of Diversity Kansas, an organization dedicated to creating more inclusive communities, businesses and institutions. It was a great venue for a lively discussion.

Living in different areas, Major Davis learned firsthand that the concept of diversity goes way beyond simple ethnic and racial differences. Diversity also exists in individual’s backgrounds, faiths, age, lifestyle, career affiliations, education levels, thought processes and political views. Major Davis’ experiences remind us all that diversity is a much broader topic than we might think.

YPs who attended the discussion learned the importance of putting diversity to work. That involves thinking through how diverse people can work together and what individual’s particular areas of diversity bring to the table. Major Davis’ experiences show that there are opportunities for synergy and growth when diverse people work together.

Speaking of Wichita, Major Davis said he was surprised by the warmth and hospitality of people in the community who welcomed him and his family. Major Davis noted that in Wichita he felt like he could be himself and that he was not defined by his job or his color. That is good news to hear for our community. While we still have our challenges related to diversity, Major Davis’ experience shows that we have made progress as a city and that there is great potential for us to continue to become more accepting of new and different people.

So how has Major Davis been able to achieve success in his career with the Air Force and turn diversity into a positive force in his life? Three things:

1. He set goals for his life, wrote them down and consistently worked to achieve them.
2. He knew who he was as a person and that guided him through difficult times.
3. He identified the positive attributes that diverse people can bring to situations.

These are things that we can all do. These steps will help us improve as citizens, professionals and as a community. So what do you think? Is Wichita becoming more accepting to diversity?

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