On September 11th, 2001, life in the United States of America changed forever. No longer did the country naively subscribe to a false sense of security. No longer could we trust strangers to do the right thing. No longer could we teach our children that we, the world’s powerhouse, were invincible.
In response to the 2001 attacks, the United States Federal Government established a cabinet department known as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to the cabinet’s website, “The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear – keeping America safe.” (For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/about-dhs)
Mr. Ryan Kelly, a 2001 graduate from Woodland Park High School, is currently employed in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), assisting the office in carrying out its task to “support the Department’s mission to secure the nation while preserving individual liberty, fairness, and equality under law.”
“Specifically,” says Kelly, “I have worked with the CRCL Institute supporting several training projects, including the development of the prevention of sexual assault course used to train Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel, DHS directive policies, and state and local laws; and development of the 2012 No FEAR act compliance course required for all DHS-wide employees.”
The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR Act), described by DHS, “requires each federal agency to provide written notification of the rights and protections available to federal employees, former federal employees, and applicants for federal employment under federal antidiscrimination and whistleblower laws.” Essentially, the No FEAR Act stands as a preventive measure against hostile work environments formed on the basis of unfair discrimination.
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. Although Kelly has only recently celebrated his thirty-first birthday, he has already paved the road to exponential success through his acquaintances. “I do get easily star struck when first meeting recognizable public figures,” Kelly confessed. “For example, when I first met Janet Napolitano, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, my heart must have skipped a beat. She was very articulate, charismatic, and knowledgeable. I was honored to have met her.”
Despite Kelly’s incredible achievements, he has not forgotten his roots. In fact, it was the WPHS Close Up trip, in 2000, that originally brought Kelly to the nation’s capital.
Kelly adds, “If WPHS still offers the Close Up program, I highly recommend it to students who have never been to Washington, D.C., and are interested in learning more about their government and politics.”
September 11th, 2001, is a date that will be permanently ingrained in our memories, cultures, and textbooks. Though unequivocally tragic, it was the day that we as citizens rediscovered the American spirit. We will keep our caution; we will keep our cool, but at night, we will sleep easy knowing Americans like Ryan Kelly are on the case, working to bring “liberty and justice to all.”