|IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., gives remarks during a special IAM luncheon honoring him and retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Carpenter, right of podium, for Black History Month. They are joined by, left to right, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, IAM Headquarters General Vice President Bob Martinez and IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux.|
In honor of Black History Month, the IAM honored IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., as well as distinguished guest and retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Joseph Carpenter.
“It was profound to have these two distinguished guests,” said IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux. “Each of them are firsts from two different eras.”
LTC Carpenter is one of the nation’s first African-American Marines and the first African American to be assigned duty at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“Brothers and sisters, I had a few minutes to spend with LTC Carpenter and I have to tell you his life story is amazing, historic and quite inspirational,” said IAM General Vice President Bob Martinez. “He is truly an American hero.”
Carpenter talked about his experience while completing basic training at Montford Point Camp, a segregated boot camp near Jacksonville, NC in the 1940s.
“African Americans have served in every war this country has ever fought and white Americans weren’t always very happy about it,” said LTC Carpenter. “In the 19th century, they wouldn’t even allow African Americans to enlist. Fast forward to the 1930s, in the military segregation was the official government policy, which was a carryover from the Civil War. The Army and Navy accepted enlistments from African Americans, but the U.S. Marine Corps refused to accept African Americans. We were harassed when we went south and faced Jim Crow laws.”
President Obama bestowed upon Carpenter the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.
Roach was honored as the first African-American IAM General Vice President and first African-American IAM General Secretary-Treasurer.
“His is a great leader,” said IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux. “He is a friend. And he has set historical milestones for all of us here at the IAM.”
Roach opened his remarks with a reading of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“These are very powerful words,” said Roach. “When those words were written, they only applied to 30 percent of the population – no women, no blacks, no Native Americans, no indentured servants. Through time and struggle and wars and Reconstruction and marches, a lot of people gave their lives for that document to apply to everybody. When we talk about civil rights, we’re really talking about human rights of all the citizens of this great country.”
Other speakers included IAM General Counsel Mark Schneider, who talked about his experience as a Supreme Court law clerk during the days of first African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.