Members of the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support celebrated the rich cultures, traditions and contributions of the Hispanic community during a virtual National Hispanic Heritage Month program Oct. 14.
The program began with a musical performance by Giovanni Morales, DLA Troop Support Business Process Support analyst, who performed Marc Anthony’s “Flor Palida” with acoustic guitar.
In his opening remarks, DLA Troop Support Chief of Staff Robert Ratner said the Hispanic community has a long history of influence in the United States.
“Generations of Hispanics have made an overwhelming impact on our culture and history because of their strong family values, contributions to all aspects of society, commitment to hard work, and selfless service to their country,” he said.
The keynote speaker, Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, president and chief executive officer of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, shared stories from her life that focused on personal challenges and her journey of growth as a Hispanic woman.
DiGiorgio highlighted her stories with empowering words that encapsulated the lessons shelearned during those moments in time.
Pride and Confidence
Pride and confidence are what she said she learned from her parents, who grew up in different economic backgrounds.
DiGiorgio’s mother was an attorney and raised in a middle-class, two-parent, Honduran household. Her father, also from Honduras, grew up in poverty with his four siblings and was raised by a single mother, who instilled in him the importance of hard work and education. He went on to become an engineer.
“My parents are incredible individuals and they instilled in me both the pride and confidence I would need throughout my life to endure the challenges that I faced,” She said. “They taught me, from a very young age to be proud, and showed me and my siblings the roots of our culture and the uniqueness of our skills, and that made our confidence grow. That pride and confidence I carry with me today, and I attribute it to my parents and the home I had the privilege of growing up in.”
Awareness and Initiative
DiGiorgio grew up in a mostly white, suburban area in south New Jersey. Although being a minority herself, she said she didn’t really experience diversity until her freshman year of college at Rutgers University. That experience taught her to take an active role in being cognizant of the diversity in her community and throughout the nation.
“I realized that unless we are intentional with what we expose ourselves and our children to, we can actually live a life blinded, not only to the beauty of diversity, but also to the challenges that confront our nation and humanity,” she said.
Empowerment and Freedom to Change
When DiGiorgio got married as she was finishing law school, she thought she was right on track to fulfilling her dream of having children in her 20s. That dream ended when her husband decided he no longer wanted to have kids. This and other issues led to an eventual divorce. Digiorgio said that negative situation, actually became very empowering and gave her the ability to shape her life the way she wanted.
“I am by no means recommending anyone get divorced,” she said. “My point here is to be open to change. To recognize your own strength and, that even when you’re scared, to embrace new opportunities. Successes and failures are all a part of this amazing journey we’re all on.”
Since then DiGiorgio has remarried and has three step-children and two sons of her own.
Faith and Humility
DiGiorgio said she learned faith and humility while working in her current position as CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a non-profit organization with a mission to enable individuals and families in predominantly Latino neighborhoods to achieve economic self-sufficiency and wellbeing.
“As a CEO, there are many skills that you need,” she said. “In your heart you must believe not only in your mission, but in people. You have to understand that you are just a small part to a bigger puzzle that your contributions matter and that people rely on you. You have to believe in something greater than yourself.”
Acceptance and Inclusion
She concluded her remarks by talking about acceptance and inclusion, two words, she said, that can be very hard to live by, especially in today’s politically divisive climate.
“It is a tough climate right now,” she said. “But living out these words has brought me a sense a peace both personally and professionally.
“I hope that these words, or maybe there are others that are more meaningful to you, guide you,” she continued. “We each have such limited time on Earth, let's make the best of it. Let’s love more and support one another. Let’s honor our heritage, our culture and our family roots and highlight our differences and have thoughtful dialogue.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and honors Hispanic Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and Spanish-speaking nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.