One of the most powerful lessons I've learned about diversity is when I Naturalized and became a US Citizen in 1999.
During the ceremony, the judge declared that becoming American did not mean you were no longer your previous nationality. It wasn't a question of "you're either with us or against us." Your old culture can co-exist with your new nationality (on paper) in this wonderful country.
I more recently had the honor to emcee and deliver a keynote for the "Celebrating Our Leaders" event. Here's why it was so impactful and relevant.
They had attendees from an assortment of nations; Zimbabwe, Australia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Malaysia, The Philippines, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.
It completely illustrated what it should look, taste and feel like. If only the world could replicate this harmonious coming together of differences.
Everybody seemed to on the same page with a common goal, a common purpose, and a collective desire that brought them together regardless of their color, creed, socio-economic background or gender. Their commonalities made it a United Nations in harmony.
I realized that diversity is not a corporate program or a politically correct implementation strategy.
The truest and most authentic form of diversity is an organic, natural event based on individual open-mindedness, understanding, empathy, respect and consideration of differences. It's a personal responsibility. Make the choice to be culturally, socially, ethnically and religiously encompassing.
Humans innately know right from wrong without the need for corporate programs and government regulations.
All good humans understand the value of equality, respect, recognition and appreciation. The true "program" begins in our homes with our children and ourselves.
This does not detract from the noble attempts of corporate America to improve the concept of cultural diversity. I believe that diversity programs are having a positive influence and that it should be continued, promoted and pushed. However, it is best not implemented in the form of policy. Diversity should be organically and subconsciously filtered into a culture as a default setting.
How do we achieve this utopian objective?
In regards to the workplace. It starts at the executive level. The diversity platform is based on the philosophical behavioral foundations that leadership acts out and lives by. C-suite executives are still too monochromatic and one dimensional in appearance and philosophy. When change is implemented from the top, then everybody who falls under that influence, will organically follow because it feels right and is indeed the right way to behave. Changing that lob-sided dynamic would have an exponential ripple effect. It's a massive challenge for the old-guard to relinquish the power of status quo. Until they do, change will be incremental and painfully ineffective.
The notion of "equal but different" must have a pulse fueled by loving hearts that have at their core the blood of compassion and empathetic desire for a better world.
Perhaps I have a diversity "advantage" over many and the concept comes easy to me because of my eclectic background. I am a Belgian National, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who got to live the American dream by way of a French-Canadien circus (Cirque du Soleil). My parents are bi-racial and I have lived on 3 separate continents and in 5 different countries. I speak 3 languages fluently. Nonetheless, it remains a choice to live with an open and non-judgmental attitude.
We musn't wait until our species encounters a common enemy from beyond the stars to realize the power of unity woven together by variety and inclusion.
The world will inevitably become diverse. Embrace it and take personal responsibility to speed up that process.
Thank you, dankie, terimah kashi, merci, asante, kosonomon, bayerla, danke schoen, shye shye, grazie, spacibo, gracias, Ngiyabonga, bedankt.
Vital Germaine is the top-selling author and Las Vegas's most dynamic keynote speaker and trainer. For more in Vital