Mullen Shares Experiences With Students at Former High School
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
SHERMAN OAKS, Calif., Sept. 20, 2008 Before heading off to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in 1964, he’d only left his home state once. And even then, the 17-year old kid from the San Fernando Valley never imagined he’d become a Navy admiral, let alone the top-ranking officer in the entire military.
“I didn’t even plan on staying in the Navy very long,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told students at Notre Dame High School during a visit to his alma mater here yesterday. “When I was sitting where you all are, I had no idea I’d be where I am today.”
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to more than 1,200 students and faculty in the gym where he played basketball during his youth. A lot has changed since those days, he said, as he shared the experience and knowledge he’s gained in the 44 years since he graduated from Notre Dame High School.
“You are receiving the underpinning of your future here,” he said, crediting his Catholic education for making a difference in his life. “The underpinning I have from my family and community serves me today.”
Mullen spoke about his time at the Naval Academy and the discipline, teamwork and appetite for winning that were instilled in him there. He explained the role he plays in the Defense Department and the lessons he has learned as chief of naval operations and then as the principal military advisor to the Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Bush.
Some students were curious about the chairman’s role as a diplomat, regularly meeting with foreign leaders. Several asked questions regarding wars in the Middle East. He stressed the importance of understanding world issues, geography and different cultures in sustaining good relationships with other countries.
“Americans seem to look at other countries’ problems and issues through American eyes,” he said. “But you have to see their views from their eyes and their perspective in order to fully understand the situation.”
Seeing the world through other people’s eyes is one of the more important messages Mullen tries to communicate when he speaks to audiences, especially groups of young people, he said. Future generations are going to live and lead in a much more globalized world than now, he noted.
“Understanding different backgrounds and cultures will be mainstream requirements in the future for business, in politics and in diplomacy,” he said. “It will be part of every aspect of who we are as a country.”
William C. Nick, president of Notre Dame High School, said the messages Mullen was able to share would go far with the students and even the faculty. Mullen’s alumnus status and position within the Defense Department mean a great deal to the students as they prepare for college and their lives after education.
“To have a distinguished alum come back and share so personally on everyday life matters from a world perspective, it’s just invaluable,” Nick said. “A teacher can talk about that day in and day out in the classroom, but it will not have the same impact as when someone comes from the outside, such as Admiral Mullen. It just makes the impact that much greater.”