Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Women serve many different roles to many different people; mothers, wives, daughters, caretakers and nurturers, but it’s only been since 1971 that their role in shaping the political, social and economic aspects of the U.S. has been officially honored.
Soldiers of 4th Infantry Division celebrated Women’s Equality Day at the Elkhorn Conference Center Aug. 24, to recognize women in America’s history, both civilian and military, who have made significant contributions to the country’s success and continued progress.
“It’s important to celebrate Women’s Equality Day because gender shouldn’t be a limiting factor on one’s ability to serve the nation, either in the Army, or through the community,” said Lt. Col. David Cushen, Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention program manager, 4th Inf. Div. “Soldiers of all ranks need to recognize that performance is not a function of gender.”
According to the National Women’s History museum, Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, celebrates when women’s right to vote, the 19th Amendment, was signed into law in 1920 by then U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was when different Soldiers detailed the past accomplishments of women in U.S. history and challenged the audience to identify them with the question, “Who am I?”
The Soldiers read achievements of Condoleeza Rice, the first African-American woman secretary of state; Madeleine Albright, the first woman secretary of state; and Rosa Parks, whose refusal to change seats on a bus was influential in starting the movement to end segregation.
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and Sacagawea, the Native-American woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804-1806 as a translator and guide, also had their contributions highlighted. It was noted that Sacagawea was awarded the rank of Honorary Sergeant in the Regular Army in January 2001 by then President Bill Clinton.
Dr. Pamela Shockley-Zalabek, chancellor, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, was the event’s guest speaker. She has written eight books and more than 100 articles and productions on organizational communication, and is the recipient of numerous awards from the university and local community.
“Equality is not sameness; it is about opportunity and contributions. Equality doesn’t make us all the same, and I’d say thankfully, but it does mean we all have a seat at the table of opportunity,” she said.
Shockley-Zalabek talked about why equality is important for the community as a whole.
“The problems we face require diversity of thought. We know it is a mistake not to get the best thinking (people) at the table … It is not just the right thing to do … it is by far the most effective thing to do.”
After the speech, Shockley-Zalabek received a certificate of appreciation from Brig. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves, deputy commanding general for maneuver, 4th Inf. Div., to conclude the ceremony.