Dempsey: Education Provides Foundation of Democracy
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 8, 2013 Describing himself as both a student and a teacher, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed the importance of education in remarks last night at the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C.-hosted annual education gala.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the World Affairs Council of Washington D.C.’s annual education gala, March 7, 2013. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Sun L. Vega
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“There’s nothing more important in democracy than education,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in his keynote address. “Most democracies succeed because education provides the foundation.”
“What makes our country great is that we dare to be great,” Dempsey said. “Part of being a leader is a deep dedication to lifelong learning. If you don’t continue to learn, you’re stagnant and you fall behind.”
The general called himself the military’s “highest-ranking student” and said he is on a “personal campaign of learning” that enables the armed forces to benefit from insights he gains through industry, academia and nonprofit organizations.
Noting that earlier in his career he taught at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Dempsey said he also considers himself the highest-ranking teacher in the armed forces, engaging in ongoing dialogue with other senior leaders to explore educational growth in the military.
The chairman emphasized his commitment to education and the people who need it to help in scripting the future.
“We care because we know that education is a national strategic resource,” he said. “Education is what feeds the hot fusion of innovation of trust, commerce and what makes our nation great. It illuminates the path to our greatness.”
The performance of American students and teachers has a direct impact on the prosperity of the nation, Dempsey said. “In a time when the acoustic telegraph has evolved into a high-powered computer that fits into your pocket, … education is the price of admission into an increasingly competitive global economic marketplace,” he added.
In addition, the chairman said, the quality of educational institutions has a direct impact on national security.
“The military is a customer of our nation’s education system,” he explained. Hundreds of thousands of the young men and women who matriculate through today’s classrooms move on to lead tomorrow’s squadrons and ships, he said.
What the military learns matters, Dempsey maintained.
“War remains a contest of wills,” he said. “Preventing wars and winning wars calls on us to outmaneuver our potential adversaries by outthinking them.”
Today’s forces understand that an international environment isn’t optional, the chairman said, noting that young service members must solve some of the world’s most challenging, complex problems, often in difficult locations. The more they understand the history, the culture and the power dynamics in play, he added, the better and more enduring the results.
Over nearly a dozen years of war, the general said, the ingenuity, imagination and intellect of those who wear the nation’s uniform have delivered outcomes. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, we gave them tremendous responsibilities, pushing capability and even authority to the very edge of the battlefield, to the lowest levels of command,” he added.
Having performed admirably with responsibility and authority that formerly belonged only to high-ranking leaders, Dempsey said, today’s veterans have much to offer. Veterans who share their knowledge with industry and institutions as leaders, mentors, guest lecturers and advisors can have a profound effect on educational and national security endeavors, he added.
“As these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen return home, … we have to keep challenging them,” the chairman said. “We need to leverage this incredible resource to drive their energy and curiosity into productive pursuits that benefit the entire nation.”