The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

It’s Never too Late

Posted by thelamp on April 11, 2007

Last week, President George W. Bush bestowed honors upon a group of Americans who earned their 15 minutes of fame nearly 60 years ago. Presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen is an appropriate tribute for this outstanding collection of pioneers. Equally important is the good faith effort toward improving race relations in America.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian commendation. Since it was first awarded in 1776 only 130 men and women have received it. That august group includes George Washington, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks.

Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because of a mistaken belief that black men lacked the qualifications for combat duty. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that in 1941 resulted in the formation of an all black squadron based at the prestigious Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Participants in the program training African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The squadron included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, as well as all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. Through this program, 450 black pilots served overseas, escorting bomber planes in North Africa and Europe during World War II.

The program left an indelible mark on American history, despite resistance and controversy. The courageous President Franklin Roosevelt disregarded contemporary politics and authorized the controversial program, which allowed men of color to serve their country at its most critical hour. President Bush and the U.S. Congress should be commended for doing the right thing, too.

In the decades that have come and gone since the Tuskegee Airmen broke an important racial barrier setting the groundwork for eventual integration of the U. S. military, 10 presidents have occupied the White House. Congress has convened and recessed dozens of times without doing right by men who pioneered positive change in America.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. This is a well-deserved honor, and the Center for Moral Clarity applauds the recipients.



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