Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Navy Admiral Challenges Cadets to Reach for the Stars

By Lt. Jeffrey S. Gray, Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

CHICAGO, Ill. (NNS) -- Junior ROTC cadets, faculty, and staff from two publicly-funded military high schools, along with a group of influential civic leaders, were provided an opportunity to engage with a Navy admiral in Chicago, June 13.

Vice Adm. Cecil D. Haney, deputy commander, U.S. Strategic Command, came to Chicago to participate as the commencement speaker for Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy's third graduation ceremony. While in Chicago, he also visited with cadets at Chicago's Air Force Academy High School and met with civic leaders over lunch at the Pritzker Military Library.

Haney came to Chicago as part of the Navy's diversity outreach efforts to encourage youth from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the Navy's officer corps and to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Haney's first stop of the day was to Chicago's Air Force Academy High School, which is located next door to U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.

Speaking to cadets in a Junior ROTC class, Haney, a 1974 graduate of the District of Columbia Public Schools' Eastern High School, readily admitted to cadets that he had problems with reading as a student and he wasn't particularly interested in English or history when he was their age.

"I sat in your chair many moons ago, except at Eastern High School, where I went to school in Washington, D.C., I can tell you that it wasn't as high quality as your school here. The facilities were old. Quite frankly I'll tell you I was surrounded by a bunch of knuckle heads. I might have been considered a knuckle head as well," said Haney.

Haney posed the following questions to the cadets: "So how can I be standing in front of you as three-star admiral? Do you think I left high school thinking I'd be an admiral?"

Pointing to the one attribute he thought was key to his success, Haney said, "If there is one thing I'd like you take away from my time here, it would be this; please develop a passion for learning, a passion for learning new things, a passion for learning new things you might not be very good at."

Haney continued, "When I sat in your chair oh so long ago, I wasn't too excited about history and I was less excited about English. But I worked on it over time. Now I have a deep respect, and can't get enough of reading history. You need to explore the full range of academic classes here, because you never know what your true passion or gifts in life are. But if you limit yourself now to only certain experiences, you might find yourself limited later when there's something you really want to do but can't, because you didn't bother to learn something earlier in life."

After spending time at the Air Force Academy High School, Haney next traveled to the Pritzker Military Library.

While at the library, Haney toured the four floors and 40,000-square feet facility, perused a book collection of approximately 30,000 titles and over 9,000 photographs, glass negatives from the American Civil War through the present day, letters and journals from American soldiers, and a sizable collection related to Winston Churchill.

"We try to tell the story of American history through the eyes of the citizen soldier," said Edward C. Tracy, president and chief executive officer of the library. "It's all about the courage and sacrifice."

While also at Pritzker, Haney met with a group of retired veterans who are keen in supporting Navy outreach initiatives, but were particularly interested in learning what was going on at U.S. Strategic Command.

Over lunch Haney provided the group an overview of the mission of the command and answered questions with regard to the organizational structure and the role of the command to combat cyber attacks.

The final stop of the day for Haney was to the Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy, where he was invited to give the school's annual commencement address. Haney gladly accepted the invitation because he has a history with the school. In October 2007, he participated as the school's Principal for a Day in the city of Chicago's Principal for a Day program. Haney also served aboard the USS Hyman G. Rickover as the boat's engineer.

As the commencement speaker Haney praised the accomplishments of the graduating class and singled out individual achievements. Of particular note, 100 percent of graduating students were accepted to either a post-secondary institution or enlisted in a branch of the military; college bound graduates were accepted to over 70 colleges and universities spanning 24 of the 50 states, including Puerto Rico; and graduates accumulated over $3.2 million in scholarship awards.

In his remarks, Haney stressed that, "Each graduate has a remarkable success story. They're here tonight through a combination of talent, intellect, hard work, imagination, and determination. That's a winning combination I think for continued success in life."

"When I visited the school in 2007 you all were freshmen," Haney continued. "I remember some of you were in Mr. Svelnys' physics class when I stopped by. Not only was I ecstatic about the innovative learning environment I observed, but I was impressed by the demonstrated passion of the students to learn in that classroom. You students took me from station to station, and I still brag about you to my colleagues. I was not only impressed by the innovative learning environment, but your desire to learn and challenge each other, including me."

"Just as each of you is unique, the late Admiral Rickover was a unique individual as well. His drive, his persistence a questioning attitude and his ability to understand the importance of teamwork and a single-minded focus on not just correcting a mistake, but getting to the root cause of failures to prevent their reoccurrence was his respected reputation. As a result of his efforts the United States nuclear Navy was launched and has been very successful."

In closing, Haney implored graduates to look at graduation not as an end but, "Consider this graduation as a beginning. So continue to learn, don't quit, and reach for the stars."

Commenting on Haney's insightful and thoughtful remarks, Rickover Principal Michael Biela stated, "I hope the graduates took away two important lessons from the Admiral's speech; hard work and persistence. Too many of our young people have a low attention span because of the numerous and varied activities they engage in, but if they can develop a strong work ethic and a strong sense of persistence they are going to be just fine."

Diversity outreach is the Navy's effort to bring youth from various backgrounds, a broad range of life experiences, and a common commitment to serve their country into the ranks of its leadership and management team—it's officer corps—by way of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval ROTC scholarship program.

STEM outreach is the Navy's attempt to foster the development and expansion of our nation's STEM workforce. The outreach effort exposes children and youth to service members who obtained a STEM degree and demonstrates what career opportunities in STEM can provide.

STEM education is an important focus for the Navy, because it produces knowledge and innovation in the technical areas of weaponry, logistical support, communications and intelligence, and medicine, which gives technical pre-eminence to naval forces, and contributes to its robust scientific and engineering workforce.

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