Tag Archives: Obama

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, 2012

On September 15, the day before Mexican Independence day, the United States recognized the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month for the 24th time since Congress expanded the occasion to a month long event in 1988. Officially, the first National Hispanic Week was recognized as far back as 1968 when Congress authorized Lyndon B. Johnson’s proclamation. Each year since then the president of the United States has kicked off the month with an official proclamation, paying tribute to the traditions, heritage, and contributions of Hispanics to American society throughout this nation’s history.

Why is National Hispanic Heritage Month Important?

In the United States, according to the 2010 census, 50.5 million people were of Hispanic heritage comprising 16.3% of the total population of the country and representing the second largest racial group. Since the 2000 census, the number of people of Hispanic origin has grown by 15 million. This was the largest increase of any race by population and was seen primarily in areas where Hispanic culture has influenced the nation from as early as the 16th century such as in Florida, the West coast, and Southwest. The dates of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, interestingly enough, also coincide with the discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492, and mark the independence dates for many of our Central American and some South American neighbors. For El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the start of the month coincides with their independence day: September 15. Additionally, Chile, Belize, and Mexico also celebrate their independence during this month.

With the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way to address certain issues that might not normally be brought to light. Health disparities, immigration, and workplace inclusion are just some issues that disproportionately affect Hispanics in this country. As Hispanic culture increasingly influences politics, education, and the media, learning about it or participating in an event during the month can be a great way to celebrate diversity in the USA.

What can you do to participate?

During the month many institutions have plans to celebrate with scheduled events including the Smithsonian institutes in New York and Washington D.C.
Check your local library or town/city website for details.

In addition to those event dates, teachers can use the website to reference teaching materials and activities for their students.

For more information, please visit the U.S. Government’s National Hispanic Heritage Month Page.

April is National Minority Health Month

National Minority Health Month celebrates the one-year anniversary of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity.This significant legislation has set into action a comprehensive national plan to reduce health and healthcare disparities (unequal treatment, unmet healthcare needs, or significantly poor health trends) for racial and/or ethnic minorities.

Statistics surrounding health and healthcare disparities for minorities in the United States give irrefutable evidence that taking a vested interest in decreasing the health equity gap should be a national priority. Below is a selection of data from the 2008 Commonwealth Fund research:

  • Seven of 10 blacks are either overweight or obese; blacks are substantially more likely to be obese than other racial groups.
  • Black men are 50 percent more likely to have prostate cancer than whites and are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to white men with the same disease.
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives are nearly twice as likely as whites to have frequent mental distress.
  • Hispanics are most likely to lack health insurance coverage, with more than one-third uninsured.
  • Hispanics and Asians are less likely to get a same day or next day appointment and more likely to wait six days or longer to see a doctor than whites.

The government has taken the initiative to eradicate these gross inconsistencies by creating the HHS Action Plan and, through Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010, opening HHS minority health offices and departments nationwide. The National Minority Health Month slogan “Act Now” calls upon people to be proactive about health equity on the community and individual level as well. Celebrate Health Equity Unity Day on April 2 by attending or helping to organize a Town Hall meeting themed “A Year on the Road to Health Equity” in your town or join in on April 21 for the Health Equity Day of Action by hosting a youth festival themed “Young. Healthy. YouNITED!” During the course of the month, be an advocate for change: find data about minority healthcare disparities specific to your community and share this information with the colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors of your community.

For our part, Culture Coach International will celebrate National Minority Health Month by promoting our work for improving diversity and cultural competency in the healthcare industry, the importance of which is stated in the 2011 HHS Action Plan:

“Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to report experiencing poorer quality patient-provider interactions, a disparity particularly pronounced among the 24 million adults with limited English proficiency.25 Diversity in the healthcare workforce is a key element of patient-centered care. The ability of the healthcare workforce to address disparities will depend on its future cultural competence and diversity.”[1]

Even before the passing of the HHS Action Plan, Culture Coach has been a leader in advocating the importance of cultural competency and diversity strategic planning and training in healthcare facilities. We have already successfully partnered with several major hospitals in the greater Boston area, helping them to create organizational cultures that support and promote cultural competency for the benefit of all patients and especially minority patients. Currently, we are working with a client to increase diversity in the healthcare workforce by training foreign doctors immigrating to the US how to successfully transition through the difficult acculturation process. More information regarding our work in cultural competency in healthcare can be found at:


Celebrating this month, we can all hope to raise the collective awareness and efforts of government officials, communities, families and individuals around issues surrounding minority health.  Together significant progress can be made if we share the HHS’ common vision for “A nation free of disparities in health and health care.”

You can find more information about the HHS Action Plan and the scheduled celebration days in the following link:



[1] (Pg. 3) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities: A Nation Free of Disparities in Health and Health Care. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, [April 2011].

A Brief History of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month 2012: Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment

March marks the start of Women’s History Month in the US, Australia and UK, and is a time for celebrating not only the historical achievements of women through the years, but also serves to empower future generations of women to leave their mark on society. Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation to honor the accomplishments of women and their role in shaping the course of history of the United States. (Click here for the proclamation for 2012) What many Americans do not know, however, is the history behind the month long celebration.

Women’s History Month can trace it roots back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911 held in Europe. It was first pioneered by German Socialist Clara Zetkin to demand equal rights for women with the question of equal suffrage taking center stage. Up until this point only 2 nations gave women the universal right to vote: Finland and New Zealand, with Australia giving rights to women who were not indigenous peoples. (Australia would not allow universal suffrage until 1962.) At the first International Conference of Working Women 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Zetkin proposed the notion that the international community should have a designated day of the year for women to demand these rights. The attendees at the conference unanimously approved her idea, and thus the first International Women’s Day was born the following year on March 19th.  Initial demonstrations were held in Germanic speaking countries (Denmark, Austria, Germany) where meeting halls and public streets became gathering places for women to come together and show support for their common demands.

Over the next several decades, the women’s rights movement continued to experience highs and lows of success. High points, such as women finally gaining suffrage in the United States in 1920, transitioned into major lulls during the years of the Great Depression and early on in World War II when women’s rights were not deemed as pressing issues during the turbulent times. However, when the men went to war, the women took charge of the workforce back home. When the soldiers returned, they were surprised to find that the women were in many cases reluctant to give up their positions. The experience of working gave many women a feeling of empowerment; for the first time in their lives they were contributing to the greater good and had a purpose outside the home. It was not until the 1960’s however, when the Women’s Liberation movement really exploded and sparked the greater population’s interest in the contributions of women throughout history. For the first time the academic world developed curriculum and courses specifically on women’s history, which in turn produced more literature and sparked intelligent civic debate that would contribute to a thriving women’s movement.

The advances in promoting the contributions of women in society by academic institutions continued successfully for many years thereafter. In California’s Sonoma County, the Commission on the Status of Women began a “Women’s History Week” that would coincide with International Women’s Day, which by now had been moved to March 8th. Soon, many schools began adopting the idea and the Sonoma Country Commission soon had encouraged enough support to ask Congress to establish a “National Women’s History Week” which was passed in 1981. The concept only gained in popularity when six years later in 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month, and the current form which we celebrate today, thanks in large part to the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) which was the leading force in lobbying Congress for the approval.

Each year since the national designation of Women’s History Month, a new theme is established in order to draw closer attention to some of the issues that women have faced in the past and will continue to do so in the future. For 2012, the theme is “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment” which puts the spotlight on the importance of education and the resulting economic, political, and personal empowerment with which it goes hand in hand. (See below for a list of compiled themes over the past 25 years)

As the month of March progresses, we will continue to pay tribute to the generations of women whose commitments and messages have proved invaluable to society. Please check back for more posts on the blog with biographies of American women who have made an impact on American history.

Past Themes for Women’s History Month

2012: Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment

2011: Our History is Our Strength

2010: Writing Women Back into History

2009: Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet

2008: Women’s Art – Women’s Vision

2007: Generations of Women Moving History Forward

2006: Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams

2005: Women Change America

2004: Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility

2003: Women Pioneering the Future

2002: Women Sustaining the American Spirit

2001: Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision

2000: An Extraordinary Century for Women – Now, Imagine the Future

1999: Women Putting Our Stamp on America

1998: Living the Legacy of Women’s Rights

1997: A Fine and Long Tradition of Community Leadership

1996: See History in a New Way

1995: Women’s History: Promises to Keep

1994: In Every Generation, Action Frees Our Dreams

1993: Discover a New World: Women’s History

1992; Women’s History: A Patchwork of Many Lives

1991: Nurturing Tradition, Fostering Change

1990: Courageous Voices Echoing in our Lives

1989: Heritage of Strength and Vision

1988: Reclaiming the Past, Rewriting the Future

1987: Generations of Courage, Compassion, and Conviction

The American Dream: A Generational Perspective

On Tuesday night during President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address the ‘American Dream’ was once again put front and center on the world’s stage.  Though Obama referenced it as “the basic American promise,” his true meaning was clear by this description of his grandparent’s post WWII belief that, “if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”  Obama brought up the subject of the American Dream to reflect on the current state that it is in, and according to the President, it is in peril due to current economic trends and the state of the US economy.

While the faltering economic condition of the United States has been at the center of many hearts and minds for the past four or so years, my own thoughts became preoccupied with Obama’s description of the America Dream. The President’s description made me stop and consider how the concept of the American Dream must have evolved over the years.  The American Dream that Obama described was certainly compelling to the Baby Boomer Generation and even to many from Gen X, but I have to wonder if this description is as compelling to Gen Y and younger generations?

In doing research on the current state of the American Dream I came across the man who originally coined the term in 1931, John Truslow Adams. In his book The Epic of America, Mr. Adams described his 1931 American Dream to be:

“…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” 

While the idea of the American Dream surely existed long before Mr. Adams penned the above phrase, I think that his statement has a compelling modernity about it.  For me, a member of Generation Y, Mr. Adam’s version of the American Dream is a much more compelling vision than the “American Promise” described last Tuesday night.

Besides my own opinion, there are other reasons that I have my doubts regarding the future applicability of Obama’s version of the American Dream. Those other reasons come out of the work that our company, Culture Coach International, does around the four different generations in America today. Specifically, we work with companies on the topic of generations in the workplace.  One of the reasons that so many companies come to us with requests for consulting and training around the issue of generations is because of the fact that each generation has such distinct “generational personalities” that workers from different generations often times come into conflict with one another and this affects productivity, teamwork and employee engagement.  These conflicts arise from the different values, communication styles and work styles that workers from different generations possess.

Given this logic and my understanding of the basic profiles of the different generations, it stands to reason that the post WWII American Dream as described by Obama in his State of the Union Address, might not be as compelling to the Millennial and post Millennial generations as it is to Gen X and the Baby Boomers.

After all, Gen Y is challenging many ideas in the American workplace that are considered to be sacrosanct by the Baby Boomers, such as long meetings and hierarchy.  Not to mention the dramatic social changes ushered in by Gen Y such as Facebook and smart phones.  Our groups of friends now span the globe and we rarely speak to anyone on the phone – two social changes that have dramatically affected the way Americans live their lives. So would it be any more surprising if Gen Y started to challenge what are considered to be the essential elements of the American Dream?

Interestingly enough a 2011 survey by Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream found that the top five most important elements of the American Dream are as follows: “a good life for my family”, “financial security”, “freedom”, “opportunity”, and “the pursuit of happiness”.  On the surface these five elements do not seem to challenge the version of the American Dream as Obama depicted it in his State of the Union address.  Though I could not locate a breakdown of this survey data by generation or age groups, it would be interesting to see if there are differences in the rankings according to age group.  Would Gen Y and Baby Boomers have a significantly different order for their top five most important elements of the American Dream?

While we can survey and analyze the current state of the American Dream as well as look back and chart what has become of it over the years, we can only wait and see how current and future generations will come to define it.  Will it continue to look like the American Promise that Obama described last Tuesday?  Or will Gen Y and the Post Millennial Generation take the American Dream in a different direction?  Only time will tell but given the way that Gen Y is already dramatically reshaping the reality of American life I would guess that in another five years we will hear a markedly different version of the American Dream being described during the 2017 State of the Union.

President Obama Chimes in on the Importance of Recognizing Diversity in our Nation during the Lunar New Year

Leveraging Diversity Initiatives

President Obama has done well by addressing many of the major religions and ethnic holidays celebrated by the diverse groups of people that live in this country during his term in office. This week he sent out a message wishing a happy Chinese/Lunar New Year to everyone celebrating in the United States and around the world. It is interesting to note the personal touch on his address as he described his experiences with the holiday growing up in Hawaii where a large Asian-American community exists. Check out the entire message below from the White House’s office YouTube account.