Why Admiral McRaven’s Commencement Address Is Mandatory Viewing For Memorial Day Weekend

Naval Admiral William H. McRaven connected the meaning of leadership, service and dedication and how those traits will help you change the world during a commencement address May 17 at the University of Texas. The speech is an excellent starter for personal reflection this Memorial Day weekend.

As the ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, he organized Operation Neptune Spear, which led to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. McRaven graduated from UT at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 1977 and was commissioned in the Navy the next day.

Transcript of Commencement address

While helping a newspaper reporter with a story on teaching young people leadership skills, the reporter asked me if I was an Eagle Scout. When I told him I was, he responded, “Wow, that’s like the equivalent of being Navy Seal.”

Not quite.

The requirements to become an Eagle Scout are challenging, but training to become a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air And Land) soldier is believed to be the most physically and mentally challenging of any military experience. The reporter made the connection that both institutions teach and demand strong values, principles and character.

On Sunday, my wife and sons will join thousands of members of the Boy Scouts of America as they place an American flag on approximately 190,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Flags will be placed on graves of Navy SEALs and those who gave their lives in service to our community, country and world. Memorial Day should be, to use a medical term, “a hard stop” for all Americans. It should be an intentional pause for reflection. During that quiet time, you may find yourself standing at intersecting lines representing leadership, service and dedication. Everyone is capable of leading, serving and dedicating.

Our Memorial Day challenge, like McRaven’s commencement address, is to decide how we are going to change the world:

“It will not be easy.

But start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today. And what started here will indeed have changed the world, for the better.”

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One response

  1. Hoo Ya Adm McRaven!

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