In a ceremony held at the Truman Library Institute, President Joe Biden paid tribute to a pivotal moment in American history—the 75th anniversary of the executive order signed by President Harry Truman that desegregated the U.S. Armed Forces.
The commemoration not only honored the courage and sacrifice of Black veterans but also highlighted the profound impact of diversity on the strength and capabilities of the military.
President Harry S. Truman’s landmark order, signed on July 26, 1948, declared that there should be “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin,” Biden emphasized.
During the three-day symposium, Biden championed the significance of this decision, which paved the way for future civil rights laws and legal rulings and laid the foundation for a more inclusive and powerful military.
In his address, the President praised the contributions of service members of color, acknowledging their equal bravery and sacrifices.
He celebrated the increasing diversity within the U.S. military, noting that over 40 percent of the active-duty force comprises people of color, a significant increase from the mere 2 percent representation in 1948.
“As our military became more diverse, it became stronger, tougher, and more capable — proving our diversity is a strength, not a weakness — a necessary part of our warfighting and our deterrence and our successful military operations,” the President insisted.
“And our unity out of many, not division, ensures good order and discipline, unit cohesion, effectiveness, and military readiness. We’ve seen it with generations of patriots, regardless of who they are mentored and trained by. Fellow servicemen from every background, like my friend, the late Colin Powell.”
Biden also highlighted the progress made in promoting gender equality, with about 20 percent of the current active-duty force comprised of women.
“Our military became stronger, tougher, and more capable as it became more diverse,” Biden asserted.
He noted that diversity is not a weakness but a strength, vital to successful military operations, warfighting, and deterrence. Unity, he said, is a critical factor in maintaining good order, discipline, and unit cohesion.
However, the President also used the occasion to address a pressing issue affecting the military—the political blockade on military appointments.
He pointed out that Republican senators, particularly Sen. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, have been obstructing more than 300 military operations nominations for political reasons, causing significant harm to military readiness, security, leadership, and troop morale.
Among the pending appointments is General C.Q. Brown, an F-16 pilot and wing commander, who is poised to become the first African American to lead any Armed Services branch as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Additionally, Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the second woman in the Navy to achieve the rank of four-star admiral, is awaiting confirmation as the first female Chief of Naval Operations.
Biden voiced his concern that this partisan freeze on appointments is disrupting military families’ lives, freezing their pay, and impacting their ability to plan for the future.
He argued that it’s crucial to have these outstanding leaders confirmed to address national security challenges effectively and support military families in their critical career decisions.
The President also criticized the opposition to Pentagon policies that would grant servicemen and women and their family’s access to reproductive healthcare rights in states where such access is currently denied.
He condemned the GOP blockade, stressing that it was affecting the lives of military spouses and service members stationed in those states.
Biden urged an end to the political impasse, emphasizing the importance of putting the needs of the military first and prioritizing national security above partisan agendas.
“A growing cascade of damage and disruption, all because one senator from Alabama and 48 Republicans who refuse to stand up to him, to lift the blockade over the Pentagon policy offering servicemen and women, their families access to reproductive healthcare rights they deserve if they’re stationed in states that deny it,” Biden remarked.
“I think it’s outrageous. But don’t just take it from me. Hundreds of military spouses petitioned to end the extreme blockade. One spouse referencing the senator from Alabama said, quote, ‘This isn’t a football game. This nonsense must stop right now.’”