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Coast Guard Academy celebrates Eclipse - the annual event designed to stimulate community dialog and promote a culture of respect

Eclipse, the annual event designed to stimulate community dialog and promote a culture of respect took place at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy April 5-6. Eclipse sessions embracing identity-related topics and encompassing race, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation were spread across the campus.

One of the main events was a keynote address by Dr. Beverly Tatum, former president of Spellman College and author of best-selling book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race.”

Before introducing Tatum, Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. James Rendón spoke to the large group of cadets, faculty, staff and visitors in attendance.

“We are in a position to shape our Coast Guard culture and I tell you truly, we must each do our part to help drive this institution and our Coast Guard to a place of greater equity and inclusion,” said Rendón.

“To be certain we will encounter setbacks, and we have encountered setbacks, along the way. We have and will confront difficult truths both past and present. And we will be confronted by tough questions as we examine our Academy and our service culture. We have started on this path, this journey, but it is oh so very necessary.”

Tatum began her address speaking about the cycle of racism and what happens when people from some groups are not included or represented in a given community.

“When you’re missing from the picture it has an impact on you different from people who are regularly included,” said Tatum.

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“But everyone is harmed by this cycle, in different ways, but everyone is harmed. Some people are systematically advantaged. It’s to your advantage to see yourself represented. It gives you ideas about what’s possible for you in ways that the other people aren’t getting. That’s an advantage.That cycle that we just described reinforces notions of inferiority and superiority that translate into sometimes explicit bias, explicit prejudices, racist behavior. But a lot of times it translates into just a feeling of more comfort with one group or another.

“It plays itself out in ways too numerous to describe on this stage today. But again, it speaks to systematically advantaging some, systematically disadvantaging others. And that’s what racism is, a system of advantage based on race.”

Tatum also pointed out that it was important to note that the cycle of racism was operating before anyone in the audience was born, and that it wasn’t their fault that racism still exists today.

“It (racism) may not be our fault, but we all have a collective responsibility to interrupt the cycle. And that is the good news, the cycle can be interrupted. But not without intentionality. You have to be intentional about it. Because there’s so much momentum, it has a lot of momentum, it moves with or without your active participation. But it can only be interrupted with your active participation.”

A special highlight of Eclipse this year was the renaming of the fifth deck of Roland Hall as the Dr. Hallie E. Gregory Field House in honor of the former head coach of the Men’s Basketball and Track teams at the Academy.

Gregory was the first African-American head coach at any U.S. service academy. Funds donated to the Academy Alumni Association's Eclipse Legacy Fund were used to transform the entrance into a display that honors Gregory's legacy, with photographs and memorabilia from his career that shares his story and the tremendous impact he had on the Academy and the Coast Guard.

Eclipse ended with the presentation of appointments to attend the Academy to ten cadet candidates from the Academy Scholars program, and awards to the following Eclipse Award winners.

  • JoAnn Miller Community Award: Mayor Michael Passero
  • Merle Smith Pioneer Trailblazer Award: Dr. Sharon Zelmanowitz
  • Joseph M. Vojvodich Award: Lt. Cmdr. Celina Ladyga
  • Coach Hallie E. Gregory Respect Award: Mathematics Learning Center Team: Tim Fill, Susan Miller: John Lehet, Julie Shetterly
  • Francis Neal Humanitarian Award: Prof. Kathrine Krystinik
  • Manson K. Brown Genesis Award: Equity Task Force Co-chairs: Dr. Jillian McCleod, Ellyn Metcalf, Richelle Johnson

The Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Karl Schultz, was on hand to honor the award winners. Before the awards were presented, he called on everyone in the audience to embrace the Coast Guard of the future.

“Every member of our team has the right to come to work in a safe work place where they are respected, where they’re empowered, where they have the opportunity after being included, to be successful and make a difference, to be part of a service that values them as an individual, that’s free from threats of discrimination, and that has a shared camaraderie and commitment to individual and team success,” said Shultz.

 


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