Vice Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy, Adm. Michelle Howard shared stories of inspirational figures connected to the nation’s capital and how they overcame adversity to break barriers during a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Martin Luther King Jr. observance program Jan. 14 in Springfield, Virginia.
Howard detailed the accomplishments of notable African-Americans like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and Wesley Brown, the first black U.S. Naval Academy graduate, and how one small act of courage can change this country.
“It’s important to break barriers,” said Howard. “The little things we do right can have ripple effects not just in your life, but in others’.”
Howard previously served as a chief engineer and deputy commander of U.S Fleet Forces Command and holds the distinction of being the first female four-star U.S. Navy admiral, and the first female and African American to be Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
While Tubman, Douglas and Brown all have well-known tales, Howard also related a lesser-known story of Navy Capt. Lawrence Chambers, commander of the U.S. Midway aircraft carrier during 1975’s Operation Frequent Wind, which evacuated U.S. and South Vietnamese personnel from South Vietnam.
As the Midway’s flight deck began to fill with helicopters carrying refugees, Chambers ordered helicopters be pushed overboard to make landing room for a plane carrying a family, said Howard.
It was the right thing to do, even at the risk of harsh consequences, said Howard.
“Even after you [break barriers], you have to make some tough decisions,” she said.
Howard urged attendees to be leaders, be fearless, share wisdom and be the best they can be.
“There’s no one that doesn’t have challenges in life,” said Howard. “When you go about doing something, it can take a long time, but you should never give up. It’s important to be persistent, to not accept ‘nos,’ and to do what you think is right.”