Leadership Is About Service, Vice Chairman Tells NDU Graduates


The National Defense University’s class of 2018 is part of a network that’s unique in its interagency, joint and combined composition, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the graduates here today.

“You met students from other countries, you met students from other parts of government and you developed relationships of trust and understanding. You should use those relationships for the rest of your career,” the vice chairman said, speaking at NDU on Fort McNair in Washington.

Selva told the graduates to take care of themselves and be ready to give every bit of energy they have to be advocates for the people for whom they work -- the men and women they will lead.

The Senate recently confirmed Gen. Paul J. Selva as the 10th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Defense Department photo)
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo
The Senate recently confirmed Gen. Paul J. Selva as the 10th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Defense Department photo)
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo

“Leadership is about service, and you work for them, not the other way around,” he said. “If you're not successful, they're not successful. And, if they're not successful, you are not successful.”

The vice chairman told the class that each one of them is “uniquely qualified to lead because you have proven it. You wouldn't be here if that wasn't true.”

Thinking Strategically

At NDU for the past year, the students learned to think strategically about the forces shaping the world today, and how they can use all of the tools they have to help shape the world to be the place they want it to be. But they must start with the world the way it is, he said.

“Because there are no military miracles, planning matters. Strategy matters. Seeing the world as it is and applying the tools you have learned here at NDU matters,” he said.

“It is the intersection of leadership and innovation that make the changes in the way we conduct war. Look at the world we face today. Russia and China are two compelling strategic challenges,” the vice chairman said.

“If we build a force that is capable of countering Russia and China, we’ll have a force that’s capable of countering [rogue] regimes, like Iran and North Korea,” he said. “But that same force may not be suitable for countering violent extremism, which continually morphs and will be with us for a very long time.”

That is the environment of today, Selva said -- one that’s more complex and volatile than the United States and its allies have faced since World War II.

‘No Nation Can Go It Alone’

“Like the members of the greatest generation, we learned during that war no nation can go it alone,” he said. “Our allies and partners multiply our capability. We are much greater than the sum of our parts. We are substantially greater because we each bring unique capacity and capability to the battlespace.”

As that battlespace continues to evolve, leaders must be more agile, not only in their ability to protect power, but in their ability to bring their allies and partners along with them, he said.

“Your job as leaders in our government and leaders in our military and the militaries and governments of your nations, is to help our leaders answer the tough questions of how to meet today’s challenges and how to prepare for tomorrow’s threats, while shaping the world in a way that we want it shaped to reflect our common values and our common interests,” Selva said.

“See the world as it is. Be honest in your assessment of how we can apply the tools that exist to shape that world,” he said. “And be realistic in your aspirations for what you can do and what you want to make the world look like.”

The vice chairman also encouraged the class to be thankful for their families and others who support them. “You owe a debt of gratitude to your families,” he said.

At NDU today, College of International Security Affairs graduates received a certificate or Master of Arts degree in strategic security studies with concentrations in either counterterrorism, or South and Central Asia. Eisenhower School graduates received a certificate or Master of Science degree in national resource strategy. College of Information and Cyberspace graduates received a certificate or Master of Science degree in government information leadership. National War College graduates received a certificate or Master of Science degree in national security strategy.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)