JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The longest serving African American in Department of Defense history made equality the centerpiece of his remarks during the annual JBSA-Lackland African American Heritage Month luncheon Feb. 13 at the Gateway Club here.
Retired Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers, who is the longest serving airman in Air Force history, also spoke about African Americans in American history and the civil rights movement.
"I like to talk in terms of American history and the contribution of African Americans," said Flowers, who retired in 2012 after serving 46 years in the Air Force.
"I believe it doesn't matter what your race is, if you're an American you're a part of American history," he said. "We must learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future."
This year's national theme for Black History Month is Civil Rights in America, the Golden Jubilee. The Civil Rights Act was passed 50 years ago in 1964 and was signed into law on July 2 that year by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
At the bill's signing, Johnson said, "We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.
"We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings - not because of their own failure, but because of the color of their skin ... The purpose of the law is simple."
Each of the 11 federal titles that compose the act took historic steps to further make all Americans equal. For example, Title II outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations while Title IV encouraged the desegregation of public schools.
"The civil rights movement was about equality," Flowers said. "We must continue to embrace it."
He explained what the letters in equality represented to him along with a brief explanation to elaborate his point: E represented education; Q, question what is unclear; U, understand choices that are made; A, attitude; L, leadership; I, integrity; T, trust; and Y, why teaching and training tomorrow's leaders is important.
"Attitude is a big one for me," Flowers said. "It's all about attitude, and attitude is about choice. We choose our attitude and it belongs to us - only us. I believe our attitude toward equality defines what we think, how we act and who we are.
"I believe we've made a lot of progress in civil rights in America," he added. "Remember: equality is a journey, not a destination, and we must stay on course."