ST. LOUIS --
Marines from Marine Corps Recruiting Command met with various local civic leaders Wednesday to discuss leadership, diversity and methods to improve the Corps’ connection with communities.
The event also took place during Marine Week St. Louis, where the Marines have been involved in demonstrations and various community outreach efforts. Over 100 guests came to the dinner to hear the guest speaker, Major Gen. Ronald Bailey, commanding general, MCRC.
Darcella Craven, executive director for the St. Louis Veterans Business Resource Center, said the event showed her and her guests that the Marine Corps is a multifaceted organization.
“Judging from [the reactions of] the people I invited along, it was definitely inspiring,” said Craven. “I am impressed with the way the Marine Corps is thinking about leadership and the way they are pushing it down through the ranks from the top down to the community.”
Among the guests were educators from high schools, colleges and universities and included Evelyn Preston, the president and CEO of the St. Louis African-American Chamber of Commerce, and Martin Luther Mathews, one of the founders of the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club. According to Craven, these people have always impacted the community.
"We are looking for leaders who are men and women of courage, who won't need to be pushed into anything,” said Maj. Gen. Bailey. “They lead from the front, set the example. That is the kind of leadership we are going to need in the future as we start talking about diversity changing this nation. We are going to need a lot of patience, we are going to need some understanding and we are going to need a tremendous amount of courage. It is leaders who produce change."
Major Gen.’s Bailey comments made a significant impact on the guests in attendance, including Bryan Daniels, director of public relations at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, who said the evening’s overall tone struck a chord with him.
“I was really impressed and surprised at the effort to connect with the civilian community,” said Daniels. “I have never seen such collaboration between the military, civilian business executives and community leaders. I was reminded of big sporting events, where [team representatives] come before the game and try to leave a big imprint on the community with all the benefits they can provide outside of the organization. That is what the Marines did by showing opportunities to grow outside the profession [of being a Marine] and opportunities to grow in the Marine Corps as well.”
Daniels also said the message Maj. Gen. Bailey provided on leadership and diversity was critically important not only for the Marine Corps, but for the nation.
“I liked the diversity and leadership message the general provided,” added Daniels. “It is a reality that everyone needs to become educated about, and it isn’t just for the Marines. It is applicable in all communities across a variety of career fields, and I think that our success in the business community and the nation is paramount to understanding these concepts.”
The evening culminated in the surprise presentation of awards to both Maj. Gen. Bailey and special guest Charles Lockett, a Montford Point Marine.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African-Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. During that time, African-American Marines were segregated and received their basic training at Montford Point - a facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Approximately 20,000 African-American Marines received their training there between 1942 and 1949.
Lockett and Maj. Gen. Bailey were recognized by the St. Louis African-American Chamber of Commerce for the great strides they have made in both paving the way for African-Americans to serve and for continuing to break ground in advancement opportunities for African-American officers.
“I did not know the Marine Corps had a black general, I had to come and see that,” said Lockett.
Upon being told that another African-American general, retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, was also in attendance, Lockett replied, “Oh my god, we have two now?”
To show the multiple ways the Marine Corps can impact a community, Maj. Gen. Bailey helped close the evening by leading a group sing along that included the song, “My Girl,” by the Temptations.
Editor’s note: The Marine Corps currently has six active duty African-American general officers.