What African Americans have achieved often highlights Black History Month events, but one celebrity speaker challenged today's Americans to answer, "What will they say about you 50 years from now?"
"It's a crucial question," said award-winning journalist and author Roland Martin, and by answering it you can learn "how you can be a difference-maker, just where you are."
Martin charged hundreds of federal employees in his audience to assess their own roles in history at yesterday's celebration in Washington, D.C., sponsored by several federal agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
He pointed to the trailblazing people who did great things, but for whom making history was never their intention. He also highlighted the people who were not in the news, but made change happen "all because they said, 'I want this world to be a different place for my children, and I want America to live up to its promise.'"
When we talk about black history, "it really boils down to the nameless, faceless folks who were indeed the difference makers," said Martin. He added that all of us need to ask, "If we're going to have a different America, what role do I have to play in breaking down the barriers that exist in this world?"
"This is not a third-person conversation," he emphasized.
He dared the audience to consider, "What will they say about the moments that I spent with Customs and Border Protection? Was I somebody who sat here and said nothing and did nothing, or will they say, 'that person made a difference while they were here.'?"
It requires for everyone, of every race, to say when they see injustice, "that's not right, that's not fair," he said.
Federal employees filled the large Department of Commerce auditorium for the program, which was sponsored by Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development and CBP. He also spoke earlier in the week to a CBP Black History Month gathering in Indianapolis.
Martin's speech followed performances by the Georgetown University Gospel Choir and the Hamilton Academy Step Team.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.