General Douglas MacArthur once said, “Duty, Honor, Country — those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
These are important values that the brave West Point graduates and current students strive to embody. Cadet Simone Askew recently became the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at West Point – corps of cadets captain.
This is a huge step for West Point; especially since they have seen so few African-American women graduate from the program. It has only been a year since the controversy about a photo of sixteen graduating African-American women making a gesture expressing their accomplishment circulated. The photo brought to light a much greater issue in that it revealed just how few African-American women graduate from the program.
Pat Locke, one of the two African-American women in the first class of women to graduate from West Point in 1980, said, “What that photo said to me was how few black women are graduating. We average less than 20 African-American women graduating each year out of a class of 1,000.”
She also shared that she was surprised but proud that she was able to see a woman hold this position in her lifetime. She said, “I can’t believe this has happened in my lifetime. When I entered the Academy in 1976, the men did not want us there. Now 40 years later, everybody recognizes the talent and skills women bring to the game.”
The first captain position is a pretty big deal in that most cadets who have held the position have gone out into the world to become successful generals and commanders. For instance, Cadet Vincent K. Brook, who held the title in 1980, went on to become a four-star general commanding American forces in South Korea.
Cadet Askew will not only be at the forefront of every academy event, but she will also oversee over 4,400 students at the academy. Askew shared, “You’re selected for this role, that’s not the end of it. That’s just the starting line, and it’s more so, ‘Hey, what do you do with this role? What are you able to accomplish alongside your teammates?’ And I’m very, very fortunate to be around some awesome people.”
Askew knows that she is prepared for her new role, after all her West Point training has taught her everything she needs to know about being a leader. She said, “They really tried to develop a well-rounded individual. We train to serve others at the end of the day. This is really the starting point for all of us, to earn our positions every day and to hold tight to this opportunity.”
In a press release issued by West Point, Brig. Gen. Steven W. Gillan, commandant of cadets, said, “Simone truly exemplifies our values of duty, honor, country. Her selection is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to the Corps over the last three years. I know Simone and the rest of our incredibly talented leaders within the Class of 2018 will provide exceptional leadership to the Corps of Cadets in the upcoming academic year.”
Askew is an amazing inspiration for all young girls out there who want to take on the world one position at a time. Askew’s advice, “Allow yourself to be a vessel. Throughout my cadet career, I’ve just really focused on being poured into, seeking advice, seeking development, leadership mentors wherever I could. Just truly be a vessel and be poured into.”
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