Calendar Marks Dubious Birthdays

Leah Beth Ward, Yakima Herald-Republic (Wash.), April 29, 2006

A “diversity calendar” published by the state Department of Corrections that lists the birthdays of several controversial historical figures, including the Japanese commander who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, has angered at least one employee and Sen. Jim Honeyford, who called it a “personal affront to veterans.”

Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, wrote Corrections Director Harold Clarke requesting an explanation for why the April and May calendars recognize Isoroku Yamamoto, Lenin, Karl Marx and Ho Chi Minh.

“A Washington state agency supported by taxpayer funds has absolutely no place painting these individuals as worthy of the support of the state and its employees in the name of ‘diversity,’ especially when their birthdays are given exactly the same weight as Veterans’ Day,” Honeyford wrote in a letter sent earlier this week.

The monthly calendars are a part of the department’s “workplace diversity program” and are sent to agency employees only. Many state agencies have diversity programs to promote tolerance and understanding of different races, cultures, religions and ethnicities.

Honeyford said in a telephone interview Friday that copies of the calendars were sent to his office.

“I opened it up and looked at it and was shocked,” he said. “To me, if you’re going to represent diversity, it should be someone worthy of honor, and I have a great deal of difficulty with these bloodthirsty people who killed a lot of people.”

Gary Larson, a spokesman for Corrections, said the calendars are not celebrations of individuals.

“Basically, the purpose of this calendar was meant to be an instructional tool that just lists people who had an impact on the world and provoke thought. The intent was certainly not to be offensive to veterans or anyone else,” he said. “One of the goals of diversity is that we co-exist in the world with people we disagree with.”

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