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The Struggle of Many Lifetimes
By Hassan Hassen
Posted on 2/11/2021 9:31 AM
Each year, we use the month of February to reflect on the immense contributions and sacrifices made by the black community. From well known Civil Rights Leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, to the hidden figures of modern-day progress, Black History Month serves as a time to learn more about the legacy of past contributions while allowing us to continue to envision the path forward. It is during this time that we use history as motivation in order to challenge modern-day prejudice and tackle the systemic issues that are plaguing the black community. It is also a time in which hidden figures are uncovered, discussed, and given the credit they have been long overdue.

In 1958, Clifton Reginald Wharton was the first African American to be sworn into the United States Foreign Service. For eight years, he served abroad in Romania and Norway and paved the way for the future of black Foreign Service Officers. Not only did he serve abroad, but he was also appointed as the first African American chief of a diplomatic mission in Europe. It is nothing short of an enormous contribution to Black History that Mr. Wharton not only shattered barriers but also served as a leader and representative of the United States during a very dark time in global history. Last year, sixty-two years after Mr. Wharton was sworn into the United States Foreign Service as the first African American Foreign Service Officer, I began my career in the Foreign Service. It is with a debt of gratitude to Mr. Wharton and his contemporaries that I use this month to reflect and pay homage to the individuals that have made my career possible.

Just as these past few months have reminded us, progress does not happen all at once but rather is built on the collective work of those bold enough to dream for a brighter future. Hopefully this month, we are not only reminded but are empowered by the triumphs and struggles that drive us forward to continue and make “good trouble”. In the words of John Lewis “Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part”. May the legacy continue to live within us and manifest progress around us.

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