USA — ‘It’s Time to Act,’ Mullen Tells Post-Grad Students

WASHINGTON — “It’s time to act,” the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told 41 peo­ple receiv­ing post-grad­u­ate degrees in pub­lic pol­i­cy dur­ing his com­mence­ment address at Pardee RAND Grad­u­ate School in San­ta Mon­i­ca, Calif., June 12.

Not­ing that “there can’t pos­si­bly be any more school” for most of the grad­u­ates – 28 of whom obtained doc­tor­al degrees – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen encour­aged them to build rela­tion­ships and part­ner­ships to turn their aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ments into real-world suc­cess­es.

“It’s time to act. Con­tin­ue to broad­en your part­ner­ships, let your stud­ies evolve with society’s needs, and always live up to the great­est ideals of your pro­fes­sion,” Mullen said. “Then, and only then, will you be rel­e­vant and tru­ly be the answer.”

The grad­u­a­tion com­prised “a gath­er­ing of trail blaz­ers and inno­va­tors,” Mullen said. And, when he thinks about those who make a real-world impact, Mullen said RAND Corp. comes to mind. RAND – which stands for Research and Devel­op­ment – is a non­prof­it think-tank.

“The edu­ca­tion you earned here posi­tioned you to lead the changes of the future,” Mullen said. “Bold lead­er­ship cer­tain­ly is in order. We need lead­ers with strength of char­ac­ter, broad per­spec­tive, and sharp insight.”

Since its start, RAND has dri­ven tech­nol­o­gy and mil­i­tary advance­ments with its research and analy­sis, Mullen said. Now 60 years lat­er, the world is a dif­fer­ent place, “flat­ter, faster and inex­tri­ca­bly inter­con­nect­ed,” and where change has become the norm, the admi­ral said.

“What­ev­er hap­pens in the future, we’re sim­ply going to have to be able to adjust,” Mullen said. “That’s why our strate­gies and poli­cies should con­stant­ly strug­gle with each oth­er.” Analy­sis must be time­ly, non­par­ti­san, adap­tive and objec­tive, Mullen said. “In order for your analy­sis to shape the world we’re liv­ing in, you must be the answer,” he said. But, “being the answer is more than just hav­ing the right answer. The most rig­or­ous, well-rea­soned, quan­ti­ta­tive analy­sis in world will fail and fall on deaf ears if the ana­lyst ignores rela­tion­ships.”

Pol­i­cy ana­lysts need to under­stand the world from oth­ers’ per­spec­tives, the chair­man said. “No e-mail, no phone call, no Pow­er­Point slide, no can ade­quate­ly sub­sti­tute for face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions,” he said.

Mullen encour­aged the grad­u­ates to fol­low the style of Greg Morten­son, an author and activist who found­ed the non­prof­it Cen­tral Asia Insti­tute to build schools in Pak­istan and Afghanistan. Morten­son effects change by form­ing rela­tion­ships with res­i­dents of the vil­lages where he builds schools, the chair­man explained. In 2000, 800,000 chil­dren were enrolled in school in Afghanistan and all were boys. Now – with 130 new schools built – more than 9 mil­lion Afghan chil­dren are in school, and one-third of them are girls, he said.

“What you learn from lis­ten­ing, and see­ing chal­lenges through oth­ers’ eyes, will inform your analy­sis,” Mullen said. “It will make your analy­sis bet­ter.”

The days are gone when orga­ni­za­tions or nations can “go it alone,” he said. “We depend on one anoth­er to com­pli­ment our best efforts with theirs.”

The nation and the world need great minds to solve prob­lems, Mullen said, but he warned the grad­u­ates against insu­lat­ing them­selves in orga­ni­za­tions of like-mind­ed peo­ple “where work is its own end.”

“I can see this is a gift­ed and upward­ly mobile group with much to be proud of,” the chair­man said. “Many of you have ambi­tions to make a huge impact. Be sound crafts­men of your pro­fes­sion, ded­i­cat­ed to ser­vice, … enrich your life by improv­ing the lives of those you serve.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)