A Salute to American Diversity This Labor Day

When I opened my newspaper last month, I came across an article entitled Navajo Code Talker Marks Anniversary. I learned that in 1982, President Ronald Reagan established Navajo Code Talkers Day. The August 14th date honors all of the tribes associated with the war effort. The date is also an Arizona State Holiday and a Navajo Nation Holiday.

I did not know that. But I vaguely remember a teacher once mentioning in class that the Navajo language was used as code to transmit messages during World War II. The Japanese were never able to break the code and translate the messages. In the article I read, I learned that the Marines recruited hundreds of Navajos as Code Talkers who participated in all the assaults the Marines led in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945.

Recently I read a book called The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson. This novel is the story of a Dakota family’s struggle to preserve their way of life. Many of the tribe’s children were forcibly taken from their homes and placed in government run schools where they were forbidden to practice their religion or speak their language.

I am struck by the contrast of these two stories. One demonstrates what is admirable about our country – how the diversity of our people makes us better and stronger. The other depicts what is less than admirable about our country – how we sometimes commit atrocities fighting against, and even trying to erase, the very diversity that makes us great.

This weekend as we celebrate Labor Day, a federal holiday that honors and recognizes the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States, I will be thinking about the many diverse Americans who labor everyday to achieve their dreams and, in so doing, make this country great. Happy Labor Day!