Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

January 26, 2017 | David Alexander & Keith Nolan

Participants in American Airlines 2016 Inclusion Works event posing for a photograph on stage

Attendees of American Airlines’ 2016 Inclusion Works event.

On November 16, 2016, American Airlines hosted their inaugural Inclusion Works event, an event that highlighted inclusion and diversity in the workplace. The American Association for People with Disabilities moderated the event and the focus was sharing the views of veterans and persons with disabilities.

Four Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) Cadet Corps cadets, Kiser Holiday, Jennida Willoughby, Maverick Obermiller, and Blake Brewer, high school history teacher, Keith Nolan, and audiologist and veteran, Dr. David Alexander, descended upon the American Airlines Training and Conference Center. Yes…all of the MSD participants had the opportunity to learn about the history of American Airlines at the C.R. Smith Museum and learn about natural history at the Perot museum. But, their mission was simply to begin to make history.

The presentations of the MSD students and faculty ran through a timeline and began with the future- who are the cadets – the students. Each cadet outlined their past, but more importantly, spoke about their future passion about joining the military. For some, it is simply a desire to join yet for others, joining the military would be following in the footsteps of their family to serve their country and they ask, “Who’s next?”

Mr. Nolan first spoke about his past personal journey in attempting to join the military out of high school and participating in an officer training program at his university in California. He then expertly outlined the barriers erected in front of him so far preventing him from serving. Additionally, Mr. Nolan outlined his present efforts for a future demonstration program to allow the deaf and hard-of-hearing into the military. A consummate professional, Mr. Nolan not only mentioned the roadblocks, but expertly addressed the present concerns backed from research or current events and Mr. Nolan asked, “If some can serve, why can’t others?”

Dr. Alexander was on the panel alongside California Ms. Wheelchair USA 2015, Dr. Alette Coble-Temple, former NFL player David Vobora, and the vice-president of Integrated Operations Control, Mr. Lorne Cass. Dr. Alexander outlined his “19th Century thinking” in regards to the lack of equality among various groups of Americans. However, despite the inequalities, explorers Lewis and Clarke bucked the norms of their day and utilized the talents of all individuals (including a woman, an African-American slave, and an individual who was blind in one eye and near-sighted in the other), equally, to accomplish the 3,700 mile mission to the American West. Therefore, in regards to inclusion and diversity, ultimately, Dr. Alexander postulated, “What if?”

All of these stories intersect, but have not arrived yet to a destination. It doesn’t have to be this way. They surmise that the future, their cadets, their students, and others like them, will have a chance show their talents if they are fully included. Although there were questions left on the table, many like-minded individuals and groups are working towards answers. Their future is at stake and American Airlines was generous enough to allow for a platform to express their views and give an opportunity to affect change. They can continue to improve the workplace, the culture of the country, and the fabric of their society.

The future will not change by itself…. they must take action to change it. Fortunately, at MSD they all know that “The future is ours!”

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Dr. David Alexander is an Audiologist and MSD Cadet Corps Teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Mr. Keith Nolan is a Government and History Teacher and a MSD Cadet Corps Founder and Teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

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