By Adm. Michelle Howard
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Today is April 23rd. And though it may appear to be a day like any other, what happens today, matters.
On April 23rd, 1564, 452 years ago today, William Shakespeare was born. Over the course of his life, he explored the human condition through volumes of tragedy, comedy, and poetry. His work would reshape the English language forever.
On April 23rd, 1778, John Paul Jones launched a surprise attack on the town of Whitehaven, England. Operating alone and thousands of miles from the American coast, Jones and 30 volunteers from the Ranger landed ashore. Their presence on British soil took the world by surprise, shaking the confidence of the British leaders and legitimizing the cause of the American Revolution.
On April 23rd, 1954, baseball player Hank Aaron hit the first home run of his career for the Milwaukee Braves. He would go on to smash 755 home runs over the next 22 years—a baseball record—and one that blew by America’s beloved Babe Ruth’s milestone of 714 homers. He started in the major leagues, on an integrated team playing in segregated stadiums. Fans threw rocks and he received death threats. He endured it all, and in his words, “just kept on swinging.” Hank Aaron’s success sparked a national conversation about race and sports in America.
The birth of Shakespeare, the actions of John Paul Jones, and the accolades of Hank Aaron are mere samples of events on April 23rd throughout history. But what if none of this had happened at all?
What if Shakespeare had never been born? We would have no folio of plays, and no deep thoughtfulness of the human experience.
What if John Paul Jones had never reached the shores of England? America might not have achieved French support in our struggle for freedom, and we might have been without a father of our Navy.
What if Hank Aaron hadn’t hit that home run? We would have lost a sports pioneer and Civil Rights leader.
Every day matters. Things that seem inconsequential can have a profound impact on people. Each day matters, and each action can change the world.
During Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month it is especially important to remember that everything we do for our shipmates matters.
To paraphrase a Sailor I once spoke with, “If you see something wrong, do something right.” Our proactive involvement can save lives.
This is our responsibility as leaders.
Each year, we bring in thousands of men and women into our Navy. Every day in their life matters, and each individual accomplishment may be the first step of a future master chief, MCPON, commanding officer or CNO.
They might not know that today matters. That what they do may someday echo in eternity.
Our responsibilities as shipmates is to help one another succeed. To do the right thing. To remember that each day, and each action, matters.
Thank you for doing your part during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and every day of the year.