"As far as I know, the military is the only organization who recognizes Women’s Equality Day,” she said. “I think the military has gone beyond the bar for insuring equality for women.”
Her ice-breaking opening remark prompted laughter from the audience.
“I’m not sure I like women’s equality, because I hate giving up women’s superiority,” she joked.
Hollarn, whose family migrated from Italy to New York in 1908, recalled inequality as not being an issue growing up.
“I spent the first part of my life not being aware of inequality,” said. “The only inequality I may have witnessed was some people had bigger houses than others.”
It wasn’t until the feminism movement began in the early 1950s and Hollarn was in the workforce for a few years, that she saw disparities in pay and treatment for women.
Though she supported the movement, she decided not to pattern herself after the famous feminists of the day.
“I was always a hard worker with a strong work ethic, and wanted to prove myself,” she said. “I let my professionalism and work performance speak for itself, and it was recognized, despite any obstacles I faced.”
Hollarn said she learned to respect her opposition, be gracious in conflict and maintain her stand on issues she felt were important. That idea won her the respect her many of her co-workers over the years.
“In today’s world, where there is so much divisiveness and hatred, where racial and gender differences are not always accepted, those of us who feel we aren’t treated fairly are not going to get any better treatment by reacting improperly,” she said. “We have to be better than that.”
She ended with a quote of peaceful protest from Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian activist.
"I had a saying on every desk I worked at for the last 40 years,” she said. “It read ‘At first, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight with you. Then you win.’”
Brig, Gen. Evan Dertien, 96th Test Wing commander, gave closing remarks.
“It’s easy to see how far we’ve come, but you don’t have to look back that far to see what a challenge the uphill battle for equality has been,” he said. “As we go forward, we must remain committed to upholding the principles of equality and that we continue to treat each other with dignity and respect.”