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Message from the Director: Black History Month

Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon E. Panetta on Black History Month

February 24, 2010

As intelligence officers, the men and women of CIA serve without expectation of public praise. The nature of our mission makes open recognition of our successes difficult, even as our setbacks often make the headlines. We take quiet satisfaction in knowing—even if few others do—that our hard work has helped protect the country we love.

But imagine if your country pretended that you didn’t exist and ignored your efforts and sacrifices on its behalf—and that your treatment had nothing to do with operational necessity and everything to do with social injustice. Black History Month has been a time for all of us to reflect on a powerful American story: Together, we remember the soldiers, doctors, farmers, teachers, laborers, lawyers—men and women from the countless professions that built a nation. Despite oppression that was virtually constant and often intense, they kept faith with America. They held to its core principles of equality, fairness, dignity, and opportunity, even when many of their countrymen did not.

It also has been a time to take account of how far we have come as a nation—and to celebrate it as a triumph for all Americans. One measure of that progress is how victories, large and small, are so common that they are almost taken for granted. We hear of people like Air Force Major Merryl Tengesdal, the first African-American woman to pilot the U-2. Or our very own Jeanette Epps, who last year left the DS&T to become one of NASA’s astronauts. With barriers broken, they can concentrate on speed and altitude.

Because of the sacrifice and dedication of African Americans throughout our country’s history, we owe it to them and to all Americans to ensure that our Agency reflects both the nation we serve and the world we engage. We are committed to a more diverse CIA.

As this month draws to a close, we should carry with us its lessons of courage, inspiration, and determination. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Leon E. Panetta

Historical Document
Posted: Feb 24, 2010 02:15 PM
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2013 01:16 PM