Juneteenth celebrated by Department of Air Force leaders in Pentagon’s first official ceremony

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday through song, dance, poetry and storytelling at the first official Juneteenth ceremony held at the Pentagon June 21.

Attended by U.S. Air and Space Force leaders, Defense Department personnel, and service members, this event commemorated the proclamation of freedom for enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865, making it the final state to receive the news to end slavery in America.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall provided opening remarks and painted memories of his childhood during the civil rights movement — recalling the discrimination and racism he witnessed firsthand.

He declared the civil rights movement and Juneteenth holiday are not the end of a journey that began when slavery entered the U.S., casting its dark shadow of hatred, inhumanity and inequality.

“Juneteenth is a day when all Americans should pause and reflect on where we are today in that journey, and what they — white, black, or otherwise — can do to help us continue on the path to justice,” he explained. “The journey isn’t over, and the phase in which we find ourselves now may be the most difficult.”

Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond echoed Kendall’s sentiment as he encouraged the audience to take a moment to reflect upon the promise of freedom that the 19th of June, 1865, offered.

“‘A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work,'” Raymond remarked, quoting the late Gen. Colin Powell. “Today we are determined to do the hard work to ensure everyone in the Department of the Air Force is treated with equal respect and afforded the same opportunities.”

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