By Gary Rudnick, President and COO
For many years, it was up to me to add birthdays, holidays and other key dates to remember into my own calendar, set it as recurring, and turn on the annual reminder notification. I usually marked those dates in yellow, so they would stand out on my calendar.
Something interesting happened a year or two ago though, as other holidays magically started to “automatically” appear in my Outlook calendar in gray, which wasn’t my calendar default color. Who did this? Why couldn’t I edit or delete them?” Did this mean I had the day off or not? And, what on earth even were some of these holidays?
At first, I was kind of annoyed, feeling others had taken control of my calendar. I didn’t celebrate many of these new days, as they weren’t “my” holidays. But then something funny happened – I started to Google days that I hadn’t heard of before as they appeared on my calendar. Some were related to historic events, others cultural celebrations, and a few were in an “other” category for me. Sometimes I took just a minute to find out about the day, and in other cases, I spent more time reading and researching their meaning, origin and traditions.
Juneteenth was one of the holidays I hadn’t heard of before, until the Outlook gods decided to put it on my calendar last year. While I feel quite educated on the history of slavery, knew all about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and had taken Black History and African-American Literature courses in college, I am embarrassed to say, I hadn’t ever heard of Juneteenth before Outlook told me. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a “made up” holiday like Sweetest Day or National Siblings Day, which is a sad commentary on my awareness and likely that of many others. I have since learned how important the day is to many people, and why it should be to me, as well. I googled, researched, and asked a few friends about Juneteenth. And while it would be easy to say “it’s not my holiday,” it very much is ALL of our holiday, as it’s an important part of our history that should be observed, remembered, respected and celebrated by all races.
As a company, I’m proud to say that we have decided to make Juneteenth part of our annual holiday calendar now, closing our offices just as we do on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, and many others important dates. Does that solve the problem? No, it does not. But awareness, education, respect for others, and support for what’s right (even if you don’t yet identify with it personally), are foundational elements for change and humanity.
For those that don’t believe Juneteenth should “qualify” as a national holiday, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. But I ask you – are Columbus Day, the day after Thanksgiving or even Labor Day more deserving of our recognition, reflection and celebration? We gladly keep those dates on our calendars without challenge (I had even manually entered them in yellow previously), close our workplaces, have BBQs with family and friends, and honor traditions established many years ago.
The world is changing, and I for one, am glad about that. In some small way, I have Outlook to thank.