Pace Offers Leadership Advice to Citadel Graduating Class
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 8, 2006 The top U.S. military general told members of The Citadel's graduating class accepting commissions into the military on May 6 they're serving their country in its time of need and offered them his own personal formula for leadership success.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, , addresses the 397 graduates at The Citadel for their May 6 commencement in Charleston, S.C.. He told them that their country, at war, needed them. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie Thurlby, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Your country needs you. We are at war," Marine Gen. Peter Pace told members of the Charleston, S.C., state military college's 2006 graduating class who elected to become military officers - about one-third of the class.
"I promise you when you put your hand in the air and take the oath, that you will never regret having done so," he said. "Whether you spend four or 40 years in uniform, you will service this country in a great time of need. And your children and your grandchildren, when you look upon them, will know what you have done, and you will know what you have done."
Every admiral and general on active duty, and many who have retired, would jump at the chance to switch places with the ensigns and lieutenants just beginning their military careers, the chairman said. "Because what you are about to do is going to be one heck of a ride, and those of us who have walked that path before you would do it again in a heartbeat," he said.
Pace offered the 397 graduates his personal formula for success: Grow where you are planted; check your moral compass regularly; make decisions; and take care of those in your charge. It's a formula he said applies regardless of what path people choose in life, and whether they serve their country in uniform or as private citizens.
Even if the job you're given isn't your first choice, he said, if you tackle it with professionalism and give it your best, you'll find it fulfilling and you'll advance. "There are more good jobs than there are good people," Pace said. "And those of you who tackle whatever is given to you with all your strength and all your heart will shine and will get the next good job."
Pace urged the graduates to evaluate their fundamental beliefs frequently throughout their careers. "I have seen it in combat as well as in peace," he said. "If you do not know who you are walking into a situation, you might not like who you are when you are done.
"The time to decide who you are and what you will let yourself do is not when somebody gets shot, is not when your wingman gets shot down," he told the group. "It's before you get in that situation so you have an anchor to hold onto."
The general urged the graduates to have the courage to make decisions. He cited his own initial hesitation to do so as a young lieutenant in Vietnam, and the quick education his company commander gave him, along with the "butt chewing of my life."
Pace said he promised himself that day that if he ever got into trouble again, it would be from going too far rather than not far enough. "Fundamentally, it is true in both civilian and military life that it's easier to get forgiveness than permission," he said. "Just go do it. That's why you are getting paid. That's why you are there. Make decisions."
Finally, Pace offered what he called the most basic of his leadership principles: Take care of those in your charge. Whether you're in charge of one person or 1,000 or more, it's important to remember that your people look to you for leadership, he told the group.
"Do all in your power to understand what their needs are and as best as you can to provide it for them," he said. It won't always be possible to do everything they'd like or know everything they need, but the important thing is that your people recognize that you've got their best interests at heart, he said.
That recognition will carry you "even when you can't get it right," and will create a cohesiveness you could never order, Pace said.
"Your organization will bind together as a team better than you could ever demand," he said. "And (your people) will freely give to you more than you could ever demand, simply by (your) doing the right thing, which is to take care of those in your charge."
Pace praised the 2006 graduating class and urged them to remember the lessons they've learned as they launch their careers. "It is great to look out on this sea of faces and to know that you are ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead," he said.
The chairman accepted an honorary doctor of military science degree during the ceremony.
"I accept on behalf of 2.4 million incredible young men and women who serve in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Guard and Reserve," he said. "And especially to those wonderful leaders and mentors of mine who I know let me learn from my mistakes and let me learn by their example and made it possible for me to stand before you today as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."