WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - Wright-Patterson Air Force Base observed Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26 with a proclamation, a panel, interviews of base community members, remarks and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as the keynote speaker at a celebration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
This year’s theme for Women’s Equality Day is “Beyond the Scope of Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years of Progress,” marking the 100th anniversary of the historic signing of the 19th Amendment, which provides women the right to vote.
Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, signed a proclamation before the virtual event.
As Whaley stood in front of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) exhibit in the World War II gallery, she said, “I am thrilled to get to virtually mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with a dedicated group of female public servants. Now perhaps more than ever before in my lifetime, I think it is critical that we pause to reflect on anniversaries like this one.
“The passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 is a reminder that our country has long been striving to live up to our great promise that all are created equal. Women were granted the right to vote almost 150 years after our country was founded on this very principle,” she said.
“And we all know that it took several more decades until this right was actually realized for all – particularly black Americans who were held back from voting by intimidation and Jim Crow policies,” said Whaley.
She credited the “second generation of women leaders” with more authentic leadership that has had a tremendous impact on crises the area has faced, including the Memorial Day tornadoes of 2019, the Oregon District shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to look to those leaders that came before us that keep pushing us to be and do better – the women and men who only saw hard times ahead and kept on moving, who saw injustice and refused to stop working until it was overcome. … We are reminded that change is possible,” Whaley said.
She closed by thanking the women of Wright-Patterson AFB for dedicating their lives to making the country better.
“You are exactly who we need in this moment to keep pushing us ahead,” Whaley said.
Miller said, “Our job’s not done. … We still see equality issues in today’s society, whether it’s a gender pay gap or opportunities in different jobs. I ask you to continue to fight – fight for equal rights, fight for diversity and inclusion, fight for just basic dignity and respect for each other.”
Diversity is the strength and goal, he said, as strength will come from togetherness and opportunities will come from breaking down barriers and promoting diversity.
“We need to set the standard, the culture, the climate,” he said, “so you can do the things that you want to do and be the best that you can ever be.”
Chief Master Sgt. Jason Shaffer, 88 ABW command chief, remarked on the significance and impact of the celebration, noting that Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne S. Bass was selected June 19 to become the 19th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, becoming the first woman in history to serve as the highest ranking noncommissioned member of a U.S. military service.
“It is so important in our history that we know how these things come to be,” he said, as he recalled the significance of retired Chief Master Sgt. Grace Peterson, the first female Airman to be promoted to the Air Force’s highest enlisted grade in 1960.
“Without trailblazers like Chief Peterson, we would not have such a significant success in equality and Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne Bass,” Shaffer said.
He encouraged people to learn more about women’s history, saying, “It is only going to make us better going forward. Thank you for everything you do and continue to help make diversity and inclusion important. Equality matters.”