by Chris Fortier
“Is there a tension between patriotism and diversity issues?” This question sparked a discussion that would engage the audience. This panel stated that there was no tension between the concepts of patriotism and diversity, with one panelist noting that diversity is patriotism “if it means allowing people to fulfill their potential.” The panel soon found the tension when it discussed protesting symbols such as the flag, the national anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Forum reached its climax with the anticipation of this panel. Chidi James, Esq. moderated a passionate, engaging, and interesting discussion with four insightful voices. The panel was an extension of the article written for the August issue of Virginia Lawyer magazine discussing diversity and patriotism. Joining the program were two of the article’s authors, Eva Juncker, Esq., and the Hon. Eugene Cheek, along with David Baugh, Esq. and Prescott Prince, Esq. The panelists noted their personal experiences with the flag. Mr. Prince observed that, at some point, the flag and national anthem bring us together as it is our two minutes to do something together.
The panel touched on the Colin Kaepernick protests and how it affected them personally. Ms. Juncker noted that this series of events led to a productive family discussion about protest. She balanced her general support of protest with the understanding that national anthem protests hurt others with whom she wanted to build bridges.
Judge Cheek, who served in the military for two years, noted that today’s challenge is one of leadership. He engaged in a discussion with Mr. Baugh, who said that we have duty to protest, as it is our only way to make a point. Mr. Baugh also cautioned: “We should not assume that all people of a color think the same way.” Attendees got involved in the discussion by sharing their stories and their issues with which they protested.
The panelists expressed their concerns with how the flag and patriotic symbols can be used to promote individuals, products, or causes — as opposed to the country. Mr. Prince noted that the flag represents the constitution but that it is used, for example, on clothing, to sell used cars, or to promote politicians. Ms. Juncker noted that no one individual or group gets to determine what is patriotic.
The program wrapped up with a passionate and respectful debate about the Pledge of Allegiance and whether it should be said in the courtroom.
Chris Fortier serves on the Board of the Governors of the Diversity Conference, working on the Invictus newsletter and the Diversity Conference website and social media. In his day job, he works at the Social Security Administration (SSA). The views in this article do not reflect those of SSA or the Federal Government.