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Freedom to Serve: A Wilson Center NOW Premiere

We are joined by Col. Eries Mentzer, 42nd Air Base Wing Commander of Maxwell Air Force Base and Steven Reed, Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, for a discussion of a diversity and inclusion partnership they launched on the 65th anniversary of Rosa Parks' iconic bus protest.

Date & Time

Thursday
Feb. 11, 2021
1:55pm – 2:45pm ET

Location

WEBCAST

Freedom to Serve: A Wilson Center NOW Premiere

In this special edition of Wilson Center NOW, we are joined by Col. Eries Mentzer, 42nd Air Base Wing Commander of Maxwell Air Force Base and Steven Reed, Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, for a discussion of a diversity and inclusion partnership they launched on the 65th anniversary of Rosa Parks' iconic bus protest. Col. Mentzer is the first African-American woman to command Maxwell and Mayor Reed is the first African-American chief executive to be elected since the city's incorporation in 1819.

They discussed a recent ceremony dedicating a new sculpture in honor of Rosa Parks, a former Maxwell Air Force Base employee, and the mayor's proclamation that began a 382-day initiative between the base and the city to promote and support inclusion efforts. They'll provide thoughts on how history and stories can provide inspiration for today's leaders and they'll identify barriers that remain and strategies to overcome them.

Col. Mentzer also spoke about the involvement of Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who serves as Maxwell's "base inclusion advisor."

Col. Mentzer previously served as a Wilson Center National Security Fellow. 

This episode of Wilson Center NOW was produced in consultation with the Wilson Center Diversity & Inclusion Council and the Black at Wilson Employee Resource Group. 

Selected Quotes

Eries Mentzer

"What I focus on here is really bringing forward all of those stories that led to the opportunity for me to serve here today and use those to motivate myself and my airmen. How we can just bring about change for our U.S. Air Force, but also, in doing so, increase inclusion for our U.S. Air Force."

"When we started talking about how we could celebrate and elevate the experience of Rosa Parks here on Maxwell Air Force Base, we really wanted people to know that she was here and that this base inspired her."

"The path that enabled all of us to have the freedom that we have to serve today—to have this fully integrated force—it came about because of people like Sergeant Isaac Woodard […] and then everybody who came after him, all of those individuals—the Rosa Parks."

Steven L. Reed

"The collaboration between the city government as well as the citizens of Montgomery and the Air Force Base is one that we think will benefit everyone. Those military men and women who are going to travel all around the world serving this nation, but also those that live in Montgomery who may not have ever left the city or may not have left the State of Alabama will have the chance to come into contact with them to share their experiences and learn from one another."

"Employment opportunities impact everything else whether its access to health care, whether it’s quality of life, whether the type of environment that a child may be in, and the type of opportunity that their parent may have as well. So, getting access to high-quality, high-paying jobs is certainly something that we’re focused on—we want to improve what we call the overall opportunity gap."

"I think corporate leadership has done a great job in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, to really speak about the need for business leaders to be more involved and to be more aware of what’s happening not only in those communities where they may be headquartered, but to be aware of what’s happening to their customers."

Event Co-Sponsors

  • Wilson Center Diversity & Inclusion Council 
  • Black at Wilson Employee Resource Group 

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