Mullen Encourages Young People to Pursue Global Service
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2009 The U.S. military’s senior uniformed officer saluted a group of high school student leaders interested in learning about the U.S. government and political processes during a meeting at the Pentagon Auditorium today.
“I think of you as our future,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told some 200 members of the Junior State of America, a student-managed, nonpartisan civic-education group that cultivates young peoples’ interest in governmental and political affairs.
“We help channel and train students who are interested in civic engagement and politics and law,” said Chris McMahon, associate executive director of the San Mateo, Calif.,-based Junior Statesmen Foundation that supports the JSA. About 15,000 JSA members, he said, participate at about 500 high schools across the country. The JSA membership also includes international students.
The students at today’s Pentagon program, McMahon said, had competed to participate in the annual Junior Statesmen Summer School program. Participants spend three or four weeks at one of four universities -- Georgetown in Washington, D.C.; Princeton in Princeton, N.J.; Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.; and Yale in New Haven, Conn. -- where they take advanced courses in U.S. government and politics, history and public speaking.
Mullen, who also addressed a JSA group last year, congratulated the participants in this year’s summer school program. “There is a huge need,” he said, for young Americans to serve as paid or volunteer participants in U.S.-government-sponsored endeavors conducted both stateside and around the world.
In addition to military service, Americans can serve others through teaching, volunteering, the Peace Corps and other parts of government, Mullen said, and the nation needs young, bright people to join in that service.
Mullen said he didn’t know he’d become a career Navy officer when he enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in 1964. Today, Mullen is the senior military adviser to President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
“So, you just never know” where life can take you, Mullen pointed out. Therefore, he urged the students to be aware of their career options and not to “burn any bridges early.”
Mullen said he decided to stay in the military after graduating from the Naval Academy in large part because he was impressed by his fellow midshipmen, noting they were “the best people I’ve ever been around.”
The chairman added that he continues to admire the “extraordinary” young men and women in today’s military who “are serving something bigger than themselves.”
It’s a universal desire for parents around the world to want better lives for their children than they’ve had, he said. Yet, promoting peace and economic and social stability across the world, he said, also requires contributions from nonmilitary governmental agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations.
“It’s all of us together,” Mullen said, nothing that the JSA students would “be more affected by the global world than any generation that we’ve ever had.”
The current and future challenges America faces, he said, “will demand great leadership, demand great sacrifice, demand service from everybody, so that we all can move forward in a world that is stable and peaceful where people can prosper.”