Retired Admiral William McRaven spoke at Murray State February 13, 2020
(Murray KY, February 13, 2020) Retired Admiral William McRaven is legendary among the military community. His service record reads like an action movie. An officer's kid who grew up on military bases around the world, he listened and absorbed the stories told by his father and his friends. He learned honor and humility from men and women who fought through World War Two and lived through the Vietnam era.
After obtaining a journalism degree, McRaven joined the Navy. His career went from Navy officer to Navy SEAL moving through the ranks to become the admiral who commanded operations like the rescue of Captain Phillips from Somali pirates and later planned the clandestine operation that killed 9/11 terrorist planner Osama bin Laden.
McRaven brought his life story to Murray State University for the first in the re-instituted Presidential Lecture Series. For over an hour, he held an audience of over 800 students, teachers and graduates enthralled.
There is a Murray State University connection for the Admiral. His father was a student athlete at Murray State. The elder McRaven took his experience at MSU into his career in the military, becoming a daring fighter pilot. Student athletes presented McRaven with a framed jersey emblazoned with number 36 - his father's number when he played football.
In his recently published biography, "Sea Stories, My Life in Special Operations", McRaven tells stories of his youth, his career as a special operations officer, including a harrowing chapter on the weed out process for becoming a SEAL. He used the book as the basis of his speech primarily aimed at the students in the audience. Student athletes occupied a section to themselves. During the program, they sat raptly. Their cell phones were used - to take video and photos of the man on the stage.
McRaven told his audience that during planning sessions in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama White House there was no politics. The remark brought spontaneous applause.
McRaven told teaching stories, using examples from his life to present moral lessons. He used the story of an officer with a DUI, an serious breach in the military, who was brought before McRaven for punishment. Instead of ending his career, McRaven gave him a chance to redeem himself. The officer later was able to save several lives in a daring water rescue. "Second chances" matter, McRaven told the young people.
At the conclusion of his remarks, McRaven took questions from the audience.
He was first asked if he was considering political office. He said that he "has no political aspirations" but would be willing to serve in a government.
In response to History Professor Brian Clardy's question on China's building bases on small island in the South China Sea, McRaven said that the Chinese remain a danger. They only care about their sphere of influence in Asia. America's eleven carrier fleets are not all always at sea. Repairs, refitting keep several out of action at a time. Those carrier groups in action are tasked to cover all seven seas.
Admiral McRaven praised Generation X and Y, the students and young people today. He praised their courage and commitment. "You are the next Greatest Generation." He told them.
On their way out of Lovett Auditorium, students repeated his praise to each other. "Did you hear what he said?" they would say. "We're the next greatest generation."
Admiral William McRaven may be retired from the military. But he's still a teacher inspiring the next generation.
Postscript: McRaven published a searing editorial upon the firing of the Director of National Intelligence, Joe McGuire. McGuire's sin in President Donald Trump's eyes was reporting to Congress that Russia is meddling in the 2020 election.
McRaven wrote: "As Americans, we should be frightened -- deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can't speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security -- then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil."