By Scott Ghiringhelli, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Washington Navy Yard service members and civilians from differing backgrounds came together to celebrate Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the Washington Navy Yard Cold War Museum, May 25.
The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Asian-American Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group, in partnership with Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Public Works Social Committee, organized the event with the help of volunteers from NAVFAC, NAVSEA and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC).
The observance featured traditional dancing, music and food from nine different countries, along with guest speakers including Rear Adm. James P. Downey, NAVSEA deputy commander, Surface Warfare; Ms. Jennifer LaTorre, executive director, NAVFAC; keynote speaker Mr. Lee Wang, co-founder of WeddingWire; and Mr. Joseph Ludovici, deputy commander, CNIC.
In her opening remarks, LaTorre spoke about the significance of the heritage month and the value of cultural diversity within NAVFAC and the Navy, as articulated by the Office of Personnel Management's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
"America was founded on the ideal that from many, we are one; a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts," said LaTorre.
She went on to quote Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, saying, "In our Navy we have individuals from many different cultures, ethnicities, [and] histories, and we must recognize this advantage and include the broadest spectrum of people and perspectives. We must applaud that we work together because of our differences, not in spite of them."
Lee epitomized the importance of diverse perspectives. Lee held the post of vice president of worldwide sales for Parature Inc., later acquired by Microsoft, and co-founded Blackboard Inc. and WeddingWire, the latter of which he currently serves as the company's chief operating officer, board director and president of company subsidiaries. Lee emphasized the need to take risks and operate out of one's comfort zone.
"Failure is not a dream killer, procrastination and inaction is," said Lee.
Ludovici wrapped up the event bringing all the performers, speakers and key organizers on the stage, accentuated by the military colors and the museum's replica submarine conning tower in the background. The Cold War Museum also featured exhibits highlighting Asian-American and Pacific Islander contributions to the Navy throughout history.
"Unite Our Voices by Speaking Together" was this year's theme, meant to encourage each individual to share their unique story as a way of promoting understanding and overcoming misconceptions and stereotypes.
"We are a pretty amazing team, all of us together," concluded LaTorre.