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David Petraeus

Strategic Military Leadership

When I was a three-star commander out of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, it was the year that we did the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. We had all the pre-command course students there, so I would talk to them for 90 minutes each time. It was once a month. It was all the future battalion and brigade commanders, and their command sergeants major as well. I would ask them how many had written this command philosophy letter that everybody wrote. And, you know, all hands. And how some had done 20 drafts. And I used to say, "Tear it up. They're meaningless." You know, it was a big blow to them. "My God, tear up my command philosophy?" So one page usually -- they're all the same. It says "Mission first, troops always," somewhere in there. Some are more eloquent than others. And I said, "Instead, focus on what the big five areas of focus are going to be for your unit. And don't just identify them, then figure out what are the actual programs that will operationalize those areas of focus." So if you say, again, physical fitness, which is a pretty good big five if you're, say, an air assault or airborne infantry unit, as I was privileged to command. What does that mean? What are the standards? What's the standard for a four-mile run? For various other events? How often do you road march? How do you earn excellence? What happens if someone is inadequate, is in a sense, deficient? What are the penalties? What are the rewards? What are the incentives? What are the various activities, the components? Oh, by the way, is it more than just sort of physical training? Is it also, perhaps, health? Smoking cessation is a big one that we used to focus on. No dipping was another one, believe it or not. It was a huge epidemic for a while.
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David Petraeus

Strategic Military Leadership

David Petraeus: We had some pretty good period there, and it was seen as an area that, I guess, was what "right" looks like, if you will. He came out to see us and that was a wonderful day, actually. I was really impressed by the President and the amount of time that he spent. I think we'd probably lost 60 soldiers at that point at Fort Campbell, not just in the 101st, but some also in the 160 Special Ops Aviation, Special Forces Group. The family members of each of those soldiers were positioned all the way around in the museum at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He spent a full five minutes, I think, with every single one of them. He was so far off schedule it wasn't funny. I was sent back, of course, fairly soon actually after getting home, to establish the so-called "Train and Equip" mission to try to develop, train -- really recruit, train, equip -- develop all the forces of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense, including the ministries themselves ultimately. Not to mention building all the infrastructure that they need and all the doctrine, every piece of a modern military and, again, police force in all respects. It was a gargantuan task. That was a 15-and-a-half month tour. I had actually been sent back to do an assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces shortly after I got home as a two-star. I came back and reported to Secretary Rumsfeld. Then essentially his reward for that was, "Okay, go over there and implement what it is you say you need to do." So we did, and we made a great deal of progress, although this was an effort -- it was truly Sisyphean in some respects, and it really was pushing a stone up the hill.
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David Petraeus

Strategic Military Leadership

I specifically chose a topic that I thought would help me develop intellectual capital that I might use later on in my career. So I didn't want to do something about the Peloponnesian War or the Revolutionary War or something. I wanted it to be a bit more current and to get at the most important issue that senior military leaders ever confront in their careers, if they confront it at all. And that is the issue of military advice on the use of force. So there I was, years later, working for the Supreme Allied Commander, working for the Chief of Staff of the Army, and ultimately as the Executive Officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when we were doing Bosnia, Kosovo, strikes against Saddam Hussein, strikes on Osama bin Laden and all the rest. And I could bring back up the lessons that I'd learned in looking at the lessons of Vietnam that military leaders took. What was the character of their advice? What was it that again led to that advice? What were the factors on which they drew? When it came time, when I was the one actually offering a recommendation and options to two different Presidents in two different wars, I found that a very, very useful study.
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Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

One of the preparations I decided was essential to my survival was I had to learn to read. I really had to learn to read. I could read third grade level, fourth grade level. As I told you, I left school at the age of 12-and-a-half. I then decided that I have to learn to read well and I went about that process. That I knew was my goal. The reason was, I realized that in New York there were many streets. Some were numbered, but not all. Some were named. And three syllables, I had great problems with pronouncing three syllables. And every word that had three, four syllables in it, it staggered me. I mean it just defeated me. So I decided that I had to learn to read better because all of the information necessary for my survival came to me, would come to me in words.
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Sidney Poitier

Oscar for Best Actor

I did learn early that everything I want to do in life requires that I accumulate understanding, knowledge, know-how. What is the quickest, most dimensional way to make that kind of accumulation? You have to read. You have to read. I've always felt that I didn't know so much, and yet everything pretty much that I didn't know is available somewhere. The first place I went to was to newspapers.
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

A whole generation of senior officers came up, including me, General Schwarzkopf and many others, who having gone through Vietnam were committed to the proposition that if we ever have to face something like that again, as the senior officers it is our responsibility to work with our political leaders and if necessary push our political leaders to make sure that they understand what they're getting into, and have they made the right political decisions? And they're the ones to determine, you know, what the right political decisions are.
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

When we faced conflicts in Panama and in Desert Storm and in the Gulf War, where President Bush and his political leaders working with him, Secretary Baker -- Jim Baker -- and Secretary Dick Cheney, came up with clear political guidance and then supervised us very carefully. It wasn't just, "Okay, here's the guidance, you military folks just tell us what you need and you get it." We had to explain to our political leaders and justify to our political leaders what we needed and why we were going to do things the way we recommended to them. And they challenged us, made sure that they were satisfied that we had thought it all through and then they let us do the job. They turned us loose. That was quite a renaissance.
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Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State, United States of America

Colin Powell: Luck tends to come to people who are prepared. You're lucky you got the job? No, you're not. You're lucky that somebody knew how good you were. You were lucky that somebody became aware of the talent you offered to the position, that's the luck. The luck isn't you got it because you were unprepared, or unqualified. Luck has played an important role in my life over the years, but luck won't do it by itself.
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