The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation took two long years to take effect in Texas on June 19, 1865. It took another 156 years for the US to officially commemorate the end of slavery by making Juneteenth a federal holiday. By so doing, the country also acknowledged slavery’s pervasive and damaging impact.  

The 19th of June, sometimes called America’s second Independence Day, helps fulfill the promise of the nation’s first, observed on July 4th. Juneteenth reminds us that consciously cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in our communities and organizations is the best way to honor the spirit of freedom central to our culture and celebrated on both holidays. 

To embrace DE&I is to believe that everyone’s lived experiences are equally valid and valuable. Truly believing that “all men are created equal” requires us to operate in a way that considers more than our own perspectives.   

Creating a culture of inclusion is the hard work of DE&I. Our efforts reward us with greater empathy and respect for individual differences, a fairer and more just society, and a clearer path to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

As we move closer to US Independence Day, we must remember that to fully reap the benefits of freedom promised in the Declaration of Independence, we need to live the inclusivity of Juneteenth on July 4th and beyond.