Tomorrow’s leaders

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Our next leaders share some common traits that make them uncommonly qualified for positions of power, and I’m not talking about our next President. As of this writing I have no idea who will win.

I’m talking about you.

For the last several years a generation of you has shared in the experience of service to country, and in the process you have learned some valuable lessons and powerful truths.

At some point in your life, you made the private decision that your own well-being is less important than what you are fighting for. For your own reasons you chose to wear the uniform of our country, but you and your brothers-in-arms all came to the same ultimate conclusion. You would rather risk your own skin for the benefit of others than ask them to do it for you.

You have learned that there is dignity in sacrifice, and sacrifices you have made. You have given up comfort, privacy and safety because a job needed to be done, and you were the ones to do it. You went days without a shower and ate from a paper sack. You ignored injury and discomfort because your buddies couldn’t do without you. You left your loved ones back home, replacing them as best you could with the camaraderie of your fellow Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Coastguardsmen.

You learned the horrors of war. You saw your brothers and sisters get hurt, and sometimes killed, when combat raged around you. You saw the torment that war creates, and you know – first hand – what happens when our military is put in harm’s way.

You learned how to lead. You know how to motivate, how to build a strategy, and how to execute a plan. You had to, because lives depended on it, and still do.

According to the Military Officers Association of America, the percentage of U.S. Senators with military experience has declined from 68% in 1991 to 29% in 2007. Half of the House of Representatives were veterans in 1991; less than a quarter are veterans now. Many of our nation’s congressional leaders have little appreciation of what you already know – how their decisions truly impact the military on the ground.

What you do while you are in uniform is incredibly important, but what you do after you take it off is equally consequential. America needs your skills and perspective in the years to come as leaders of industry, leaders in your communities, and yes, as leaders in politics. Trust your experience and talents and step up. Get involved and let your voices be heard. Shepherd us into the next century.

We need you.

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