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Only 21, Simone Askew is Making History at the US Military Academy at West Point

"Temperament, which sets a climate for making other people feel comfortable, is the key to success." - Simone Askew

As the oldest service academy in America, the prestigious two-hundred-year-old United States Military Academy at West Point has plenty of history under its proverbial belt. But none such as historic as the installation of 21-year-old Simone Askew as its African-American female First Captain of the Corps of Cadets. In a role previously held by luminaries such as five-star General Douglas MacArthur—one of only 9 Americans to hold this rank—Askew is stepping into her history-making position and changing the face of leadership at West Point.

Photo: Simone Askew, First Captain of the US Military Corps of Cadets. Source: CBS News

“My focus is to be the best First Captain I can be, regardless of gender or race,” Askew told CBS News This Morning’s Norah O’Donnell. As the commander of a brigade of 4400 in the historic academy where only 22% of students are women and less than 4% are African-American women, Askew stressed that she wanted her legacy post-graduation to be that of “a good leader,” rather than solely as a “good African-American female leader.” Askew is the biracial child of a white mother and black father and learned early on to celebrate her racial identity as “a positive thing,” even after sometimes being ostracized for her unique racial makeup. The experience, she says, “forces me to be okay with my own sense of identity.”

Askew is quietly aware of the impact her position has on other women, noting that “seeing someone who you can relate to provides a motivation.” For Askew, that motivation was Priscilla Walker Locke, one of two African-American women to graduate from West Point in 1980. She also credits her mother for her sense of service and learning the value of “temperament, which sets a climate for making other people feel comfortable,” which is Askew says “the key to success.”

Photo: Patricia "Pat" Walker Locke, first of two African-American women to graduate from West Point US Military Academy. Source: CBS News

Askew will also make another historic move at this Saturday’s 118th annual Army-Navy football game, leading the ceremonial March of the US Military Corps of Cadets, or “March On,” as the first African-American woman to lead this event.

In addition to her position of authority at West Point, Askew’s leadership extends to her academic excellence—she is one of only 32 students awarded this year’s Rhodes Scholarship. She will continue her studies at the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

Sources: CBS News, Washington Post

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