The Only Thing That Matters is Duty
(May 31, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, May 27, 2010 – I had the honor of addressing the
graduating class of 2010 from the United States Air Force
Academy. They and a select group of college graduates
throughout the country are receiving a diploma this month
and then raising their hand to defend our nation. As I fly
back home to Washington, it is to these young men and women
entering our military that I wish to impart some of the same
time-tested advice I gave our newest Air Force officers.|
In a word, it's about duty.
Your first duty is to learn your jobs, and learn them well.
Know them cold. Know them better than your peers, better
even than your superiors. Stay ahead of the technology and
the trends, because you are going to be on the leading edge
of that change.
You are going to be responsible for making sure those you
command and those you serve are informed and able to make
the best decisions they can, often with little or no notice.
You can't do that if you don't know what you're talking
about. Become an expert. That is the most meaningful way a
junior officer can contribute to the mission.
Your second duty is to lead. And there's a lot that goes
into that, I know. Let me just tell you a little of what it
means to me. It means loyalty. And loyalty must be
demonstrated to seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. It
must never be blind. Few things are more important to an
organization than people who have the moral courage to
question the direction in which the organization is headed
and then the strength of character to support whatever final
decisions are made.
Leadership also requires integrity. You may, at times, prove
better than your word, but you will rarely prove better than
your actions. The high standards by which you measure your
own personal behavior and that of others, say more about you
and your potential than any statements you make or guidance
you give. You should strive to conduct yourself always in
such a manner that it can never be said that you demanded
less of yourself or of the men and women in your charge than
that which is expected of you by your families or your
Leaders today must likewise think creatively. They should be
able to place themselves outside the problems immediately
before them and look at them from a fresh perspective. While
great decisions can be made in the heat of battle, great
ideas are usually born in the ease of quiet. You must find
the quiet to let your imaginations soar.
And that brings me to your final duty — to listen. You must
listen to yourselves, to your instincts. You must also prove
capable of listening to others, of trying to see problems
through the perspectives of our allies, our partners, and
our friends all over the world. No one military, no one
nation, can do it alone anymore. It's why I sat cross-legged
in a shura with tribal elders in Afghanistan. It's why our
troops in that war-torn country are working so hard to speak
the language and understand the culture.
Finally, remember that graduation and commissioning
represent only the end of the beginning of your education.
The world is now your classroom. Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors,
and Marines are now your teachers. They and their families
are the best they've ever been: talented, eager, and proud
of what they are doing.
Take full advantage of their knowledge to improve yours.
Show them your loyalty, and they will show you theirs.
Demonstrate integrity in everything you do, and they will
respect you. You represent the values they have — throughout
our history — struggled to defend. Only by earning the
support of those you lead can you ever truly hope to become
a leader yourself.
Only by doing your duty — straight and true — can you hope
to prove worthy of the trust this nation places in you
Best of luck to you all, God bless and congratulations.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen|
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
American Forces Press Service
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