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Lessons Learned About Diversity

November 26, 2008

One of the best lessons my family taught me as a child was to look for the good in all people. It sounds simplistic but I’ve actually built my life around that basic principle. Looking back on the recent U.S. presidential campaigns, I was reminded of this early childhood lesson that I observed by hanging around my maternal grandparents. You see, my grandmother was a Democrat and my grandfather was a Republican. Both were passionate about their political beliefs but at the end of each kitchen table debate, they would talk about the pride of being an American. Having been born in the segregated South just a generation away from slavery, they often talked about the significance of freedom and the right to vote. Each election day, they would dress up in their Sunday’s best and go to the polls to cast their votes. And regardless of which candidate won, they would always say, “We’re going to be okay because our family is strong; our neighborhood is strong and as long as we are strong, this nation will be strong. We’re going to look for the good.”

In my current FedEx role as diversity and ethnic outreach liaison for the Social Responsibility team, I know that respecting our differences while embracing our common humanity is the key to understanding and appreciating diversity. Had I not learned to appreciate diversity at an early age, I may not have met the Latino woman from East Harlem who helped me develop plans for a community-based tutorial program; the East Memphis Caucasian teacher who encouraged me at age 15 to pursue a career in communications; the elderly Iranian woman whose frail hands knitted my favorite shawl; the Belgian women who treated me like a sister when I worked in Europe; the dozens of Jewish girls in my UT-Knoxville college dorm who helped me collect Christmas toys and clothing for poor children; the Caucasian students at the University of Wisconsin who helped me to launch a fundraiser for children suffering with sickle cell anemia, the Filipino woman who surprised me with the best birthday party I ever had, and the list goes on. These people didn’t look like me, but along my life’s journey they offered a common touch I’ll never forget.

Each day, I see the power of diversity at work within FedEx. It is evident in our employee affinity networks, youth mentoring programs, customer and supplier diversity programs, job training and promotions, scholarship programs, community outreach efforts, and national awards events that recognize accomplishments of persons of all races and backgrounds. Each day we look for the good in the communities we serve and because we are there to make a difference, we find it again and again. My grandparents would be proud.


    Francisco Cervantes says:

    Embracing our similarities while respecting our differences should be the foundation for all human relationships. If we can apply this philosophy to every interaction within the workplace, I’m sure the improvement in communication and as a consequence in productivity would be tremendous.

    Sid says:

    Your comments are very true. When I was young kid, my grandmother always use to tell me this story – it went something like this.

    Grandma: Do you know what God tells each human being before they send them down to the earth?

    Me: No idea

    Grandma: God tells each human being that “my child, you are unique. I have not made anyone else like you – your skills, talents, aspirations, desires are all unique. Make good use of them”

    Me: Hmm…

    It took me many years to understand what my grandma was telling me and I think what you’ve said is exactly along the same lines – there is an inherent good in all of us – we may not speak the same language, we may have different religions, we may dress differently but at the end of the day, it’s the fact that we’re all “good” human beings that bonds us.

    Denise Doris says:

    Just to let you know I needed to read this tonight, when I came to work I was not feeling very well at all, this gave me something to look forward to and think about. Not that I don’t know and or understand what was explained, but sometimes you need to let someone else say it to give you that little pick me up.

    At this time nothing is going well for me at the center I work at. If you report things you are not happy with to your manager nothing is being done about it.

    Please understand after reading this how it made me feel.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Denise Doris.

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