Last week, the Veterans Club hosted Stanford GSB's 5th Annual Military Service Appreciation Dinner. The event honored George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State and Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Steve G., a first-year MBA student and 11-year U.S. Navy veteran, shares his impressions from the event:
It was humbling to have a front row seat to hear George Shultz's reflections on 71 years of leadership and public service. "Troops come first; officers eat last," Shultz learned as a Marine Corps officer in the Pacific in 1942, and he never forgot as he served in three Presidential administrations, as Dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and as President and later a Director at Bechtel Corporation. "This ethic has been lost on society–do the best for the guys who work for you," he elaborated.
When he went through basic training at Parris Island, one of the first things his drill instructor taught him was "never point your rifle at someone unless you’re prepared to use it." It was a philosophy that guided him and President Reagan through Cold War diplomacy : "no empty threats."
He shared two more lessons from the Marine Corps that stayed with him–don't negotiate if you don’t have the ability to hold out for a good deal (learned while bargaining on a two-hour shore leave in the South Pacific), and, more seriously, if you're going to commit your troops to combat, make sure it’s a great mission; leaders have an obligation to make that decision very carefully.
Dr. Shultz addressed a sold-out dinner of 200 guests, including the veterans (U.S. and international) enrolled in the MBA and Sloan programs. The overwhelming response from the crowd–most of whom were faculty and students with no direct affiliation with the military–reminded me of how simple and enduring the leadership lessons from combat are, how international the military community really is, and how strong the ties are in a community that spans WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Semper Fi, Dr. Shultz!