TRACY, Calif. –
Employees of Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin, California, celebrated National African-American Black History Month Feb. 27 featuring Bernard Hardy, retired vice president of retail operations for Safeway, Northern California division as the keynote speaker. This year’s theme was “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future” and commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The installation commander Marine Col. Tiffany Harris provided the opening remarks. She spoke of how desegregation in the Armed Forces had not yet happened during World War II and yet 2.2 million African-Americans still registered for the draft.
“During this anniversary, we pay tribute to those Americans who undauntedly and courageously contributed to the defense of our nation,” said Harris. “They fought the double battle, the one against America’s enemies, and the one against discrimination at home that kept them from the front lines, restricted their upward mobility and delayed combat medals and awards.”
Hardy feels blessed where he is in life. He started in the grocery business working as a grocery bagger and rose through the ranks in his last position with Safeway. He retired after 44 years of dedicated service and never lost track of the most valuable resource in his organization…people.
Hardy spoke of some key areas that were important to him. He believes diversity is the fuel that makes the world go around. Further, he values accountability from the grocery store bagger to the corporate executive officer stating they all must be held accountable for everything they are required to do.
He truly believes in people and encourages everyone to recognize and celebrate their employees.
“Thank you goes a long way. The team must feel they are the most important people in the room,” commented Hardy. “At the end of the day they [employees] are the glue that keeps us together. People perform better when they are valued.”
He was the first and only African-American to reach the vice president level in his division at Safeway.
“I found myself looking for support with someone like me…another African-American. As I looked around the room, guess what I saw? None. I was the first and unfortunately there has not been one since me,” said Hardy. “I couldn’t find any comfort there, so I had to rely on my ability, and I had to rely on the people that sponsored and mentored me on the way. I had to rely on my own smarts to a degree.”
The celebration ended with a game of Jeopardy focusing on African-American firsts in the Armed Forces. Three teams battled to win the title of Jeopardy champions!