By Butch Wehry
Academy Spirit staff
Association of Graduates President and Chief Executive Officer William ‘T’ Thompson took time in an interview to advise Academy Spirit readers what attendees at the Annual Black History Month Celebration in Arnold Hall Ballroom could expect to hear from this year’s guest speaker.
This year’s BHM theme, “History: A Torch for the Future,” has special meaning for the former Air Force captain, civilian attorney, entrepreneur, Massachusetts Aeronautics commissioner and 25-year Delta Airlines pilot.
“My impression is that by learning and understanding history, we have the light of knowledge which shines on a path for the way ahead,” said the 1973 Academy graduate and former T-37 and T-38 instructor pilot from Orangeburg, S.C.
Over the years, the AOG leader believes the annual Black History Month has played a vital role in the armed forces.
“I expect it has given the broader military community both knowledge of, and respect for, the contributions African-Americans have made to the greatness of our country,” he said.
He said he never experienced a “glass ceiling” based on race during his active Air Force years.
But stats don’t lie.
“From the number of African-American three- and four-star generals in the Air Force today, one out of 46, one can certainly surmise that a glass ceiling may have existed,” he said.
Where is the annual event hopefully headed?
“I hope that it will continue to be both an informative and celebratory event recognizing the contributions of African-Americans to our rich history,” he said, but there’s still work to be done.
“Like significantly increase the African-American leadership opportunities and numbers at all levels in the Air Force, including continuing the on-going efforts with cadets here at the Academy,” Mr. Thompson said. “While significant challenges remain, I believe the opportunities to be successful in today’s Air Force are considerably better than when I was on active duty.
“Regardless of your party affiliation or how you voted, the election of President Obama was a monumental positive event for our country,” Thompson said. “It moved America significantly closer to achieving the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal.’ It solidified the true aspect of the American Dream.”