Friday, May 19, 2006

General Peter Pace on Leadership

Commencement speeches are often boring and too many of them are delivered by people who picked up few lessons on the way to celebrity. There may be a better commencement speech this year than the one delivered by General Peter Pace at The Citadel, but I doubt it. An excerpt:

First: Grow where you are planted. Some of you are going to go to jobs that were not your first choice. Some of you in the military will go into specialties that were not your first choice. I guarantee you that wherever you go there are individuals who deserve caring leadership. And if you will go to that job or that profession and give it your very best, I promise you that you will find it fulfilling and that you will continue to get promoted because there are more good jobs than there are good people. And those of you who tackle whatever is given you with all your strength and all your heart will shine and will get the next good job.

Second: Check your moral compass frequently. I have seen it both in combat and in peace. If you do not know who you are walking into a situation, you may not like who you are when you're done. When I was a lieutenant in Vietnam, I lost Lance Corporal Guido Ferranaro from Bethpage, New York, a 19-year-old Marine, to a sniper—the first Marine I'd ever lost in combat. I was filled with rage, and I called in an artillery strike on the village from which the sniper fired. Between the time that I called in the strike and the rounds were fired, my platoon sergeant didn't say a word, he just looked at me. And I realized I was doing the wrong thing, and I called off the artillery strike, and we did what we should've done, which was to sweep through the village. And all we found in that village were women and children.

I do not know how I could live with myself today if I had carried that first instinct forward. The time to decide who you are and what you will let yourself do is not when somebody gets shot, it is not when your wingman gets shot down, it is before you get in that situation so you have an anchor to hold on to. This applies elsewhere.

Read the entire thing.

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