By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
June 14, 2010 - "It's time to act," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told 41 people receiving post-graduate degrees in public policy during his commencement address at Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif., June 12.
Noting that "there can't possibly be any more school" for most of the graduates – 28 of whom obtained doctoral degrees – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen encouraged them to build relationships and partnerships to turn their academic achievements into real-world successes.
"It's time to act. Continue to broaden your partnerships, let your studies evolve with society's needs, and always live up to the greatest ideals of your profession," Mullen said. "Then, and only then, will you be relevant and truly be the answer."
The graduation comprised "a gathering of trail blazers and innovators," Mullen said. And, when he thinks about those who make a real-world impact, Mullen said RAND Corp. comes to mind. RAND – which stands for Research and Development – is a nonprofit think-tank.
"The education you earned here positioned you to lead the changes of the future," Mullen said. "Bold leadership certainly is in order. We need leaders with strength of character, broad perspective, and sharp insight."
Since its start, RAND has driven technology and military advancements with its research and analysis, Mullen said. Now 60 years later, the world is a different place, "flatter, faster and inextricably interconnected," and where change has become the norm, the admiral said.
"Whatever happens in the future, we're simply going to have to be able to adjust," Mullen said. "That's why our strategies and policies should constantly struggle with each other."
Analysis must be timely, nonpartisan, adaptive and objective, Mullen said. "In order for your analysis to shape the world we're living in, you must be the answer," he said. But, "being the answer is more than just having the right answer. The most rigorous, well-reasoned, quantitative analysis in world will fail and fall on deaf ears if the analyst ignores relationships."
Policy analysts need to understand the world from others' perspectives, the chairman said. "No e-mail, no phone call, no PowerPoint slide, no [video teleconference] can adequately substitute for face-to-face conversations," he said.
Mullen encouraged the graduates to follow the style of Greg Mortenson, an author and activist who founded the nonprofit Central Asia Institute to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson effects change by forming relationships with residents of the villages where he builds schools, the chairman explained. In 2000, 800,000 children were enrolled in school in Afghanistan and all were boys. Now – with 130 new schools built – more than 9 million Afghan children are in school, and one-third of them are girls, he said.
"What you learn from listening, and seeing challenges through others' eyes, will inform your analysis," Mullen said. "It will make your analysis better."
The days are gone when organizations or nations can "go it alone," he said. "We depend on one another to compliment our best efforts with theirs."
The nation and the world need great minds to solve problems, Mullen said, but he warned the graduates against insulating themselves in organizations of like-minded people "where work is its own end."
"I can see this is a gifted and upwardly mobile group with much to be proud of," the chairman said. "Many of you have ambitions to make a huge impact. Be sound craftsmen of your profession, dedicated to service, ... enrich your life by improving the lives of those you serve."