A couple of weeks ago, I attended the INROADS Rocky Mountain Region annual awards banquet on behalf of my employer. My manager had to back out at the last minute and I was thrilled to go in her place. After all, I was anxious to hear more about the organization that gave us such a kick-ass intern this past summer. I walked in to the silent auction room and was greeted by my intern and her mother. She was beaming with pride to have her mom share in the moment. I was a little giddy myself after meeting so many rising stars. I also learned that INROADS was founded more than 30 years ago by a white dude. Who knew?
As I sat at the dinner table with some of our future leaders and listened to the guest speaker talk about the evening’s theme, “Celebrating the Dream,” I started thinking about how great it is to be a part of country that has become so accepting of people. I mean, here we are in 2009, recognizing many young African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans for their contributions to the corporate world. We have our first African-American president in office and our first Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. We’ve done it! We’ve fulfilled Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream! So our work is done, right?
Wrong. I fear that organizations like INROADS will begin to see a decline in support as the diversity acceptance trend continues to grow. If you think I’m being paranoid, think again. Remember the hoopla around the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and how the funds were to go to tobacco prevention programs? And how, in just a few short years with some success, states started using the funds to pay for non-tobacco prevention programs due to budget shortfalls? Don’t think something similar couldn’t happen to diversity programs. Sometimes, success doesn’t always help the cause.
So, what do we do to keep diversity high on the priority list? How do we keep fulfilling the dream? First and foremost, talk to your company about organizations like INROADS. And if you own your own business, do some homework yourself. You won’t be disappointed in the talent they offer. Also, look for ways to help support these types of groups, and not just financially. And finally, fulfill the dream yourself. It’s human to seek out people who think, act and even look like you. But, by doing that, you miss out on all the ways others see the world.
Are you fulfilling the dream?