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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

PUBLISHER’S NOTEBOOK–Saluting a Diversified Work Force

The backbone of any successful company or organization is without question its employee base.

No profitable company today would make it very long without the team that takes the product to market. One key ingredient in the recipe for winning as an organization is the ethnic diversity of the players.

On July 25 at a special awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Marina in Downtown, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, we honored 51 companies and organizations for multicultural diversity. From the 51, the judges selected 10 Best of the Best in industry winners. In the six years the award has been in existence we have saluted more than 250 companies and organizations for being enlightened and seeing diversity as one of the key ingredients to their success.

In addition to the awards we also presented the first annual Matt LaChappa Academic Achievement Scholarship to Elizabeth Van Dyne, a recent graduate of Grossmont High School. She graduated with a 4.886 GPA out of a 5.00.

Elizabeth has many of the same traits as Matt LaChappa, who the award is named after. She is an athlete, a concerned and caring young American, and a person who gives back to the community.

Matt, as you might remember, is one of only two or three Native Americans ever to play top-level professional baseball. While a pitcher with the Padres farm system, Matt suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Although confined to a wheelchair today, his spirit remains undaunted. His beaming smile when he presented the award to Elizabeth was enough to signal to all in attendance that Matt had picked a mirror image of his own personality.

The keynote speaker at the event was U.S. Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. He is one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the Clinton administration and a native Californian. Before being named secretary by the president, he had served for five years as a state assemblyman representing Los Angeles.

He spoke passionately about the importance of diversity in the workplace. Mentoring and setting an example for others were two key points. He commented that in 20 years of education, he had only one Hispanic teacher.

He pointed out that those who recognize the importance of diversity are forging a path for others to experience an equal opportunity for greatness. Nothing is so tragic as our citizens who have no hope and dare not to dream because without other Americans stepping up to help, none will have a chance to choose.

I was a commencement speaker this summer at one of the University of Phoenix graduations and I shared this story with the graduating seniors. I also shared it with our sold-out luncheon audience on July 25.

One night about 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in the conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxi. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but she wrote down his address and thanked him.

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but my spirit. I arrived at my husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others. Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.”

We have produced a special insert, which is included in your paper this week, detailing more about the companies and why they were selected. Look for it.

I will end this piece with a salute to all 51 finalists but especially to the 10 Best of the Best in Industry listed here:

Barona Casino; Sempra Energy; SeaWorld San Diego; Pacific Bell-San Diego; Califormula Broadcasting; Avid Center of the County Office of Education; Multi-Cultural Contractors Group; Vista Community Clinic; NCR-San Diego; and the Small Business Development and International Trade Center of Southwestern College.

Special thanks goes to our title sponsor, Wells Fargo Bank, and the co-sponsor of the luncheon, the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Marina.


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