October 4th is National Diversity Day. This year’s theme is to Embrace Diversity, Embrace Our World! Since 2005 it has been observed on the first Friday of October. As a board member for the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles, I recently had such an opportunity. Seven individuals from various parts across Asia – Fiji, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, came to my home for food and conversation. I served a lovely dinner and invited neighbors to come in and have a discussion around “Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.”
My new friends Mesake Jale Sovasova from Fiji, Murni Mat Amin from Malaysia, Sarah Jane Lang from New Zealand, Sivapalan Gunapalan from Sri Lanka, and Naveed Akhtar, Siraji Ui Haq, and Mian Adil Zahoor from Pakistan opened up their hearts and minds to listen to each of us as we shared about preparedness and relations in our country. They were eager to learn about best practices they could take back to their own countries to implement ideas on how to be prepared when natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods or “acts of man” like terrorism can be handled and hopefully solved. Although we have a lot we need to work on, America has handled various disastrous situations where they have the knowledge to share.
The cool thing about embracing diversity is that the world comes to us every day. We are a melting pot where people travel to America from across the globe to live or do business. Today there is also a high probability that you have a neighbor, a family member, or a colleague of different ethnicity, culture, or who practices different traditions or religions. Diversity is something we can either embrace and grow together or fight and destroy the foundation of future harmony. One of the ways we can break the ice is to hold a potluck where everyone brings their favorite family dish and shares a story behind it. Food is always a great way to start a conversation and begin a dialogue. Good food not only fills the stomach it can also open our hearts to others.
The topic of diversity in the workplace has been around in the United States since the 1960s. Initially, diversity education started in response to the civil rights movement. Through the decades, the training and educational courses grew in order to help decrease possible civil rights suits. It was also thought that it could help increase the bottom line of corporate America. There’s a difference between diversity training and diversity education. The goal of training is to improve awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skillset. Whereas, diversity education is a combination of diversity best practices with the goal of increasing cultural diversity and helping people to feel more inclusive. We need both awareness and education.
Last year I took a course from the Protocol School of Washington where we learned not only the importance of proper etiquette and protocol but also the importance of multicultural understanding. Our world is getting smaller and global presence is growing stronger every day. With the continued growth of the internet and global commerce, it is important for us to be concerned about how we embrace the whole concept of diversity with respect. Robert Kennedy said, “Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity.” What say you?
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