I was privileged to have an opportunity to sit down with men like my dad and his closest friends who were all Marines. There was a sense of service and what that meant, but there was also just this tremendous excitement to be a Marine, to travel overseas, to be responsive, to be in charge and that was something that was extremely exciting for me.
Everybody has their doubts and fears. Everybody does. I did. I didn't know whether I'd make it. I mean I was gonna fight like hell. But everybody has their own doubts and fears. So recognize that. You know, real courage is not being unafraid. Real courage is acting in the face of fear and doing what's right when no one's looking.
I think there's a common misconception about military service that it's all about giving or taking orders. The fact of the matter is that you get paid to think as a Marine Corps Officer. It's to think and to lead and to lead with that blend of compassion and toughness that is the hallmark of a great Marine Corps Officer.
The Marine Corps is about as close to a meritocracy as you can get, you know. You're only as good as your current duty station.
Sure, your reputation precedes you. But you've got to perform. Every job you have is about your performance and your aptitude, not who you are, not what family you came from, what are you doing and what decisions are you making.
So I came back to UNC for my junior year and I had spent a lot of time studying economics, anthropology and Swahili. So I traveled over to Kibera and rented an 8-by-8 foot shack in this slum community with about 700,000 people living in extreme poverty. I had wanted to basically travel to Africa and get a better understanding of some of the ethnic violence that had occurred. And the thinking for me behind this was that I was going in to be a Marine Officer and we may deploy to places such as Rwanda in either a peacekeeping role or a military intervention and I wanted to better understand that. I also wanted to better understand what could be done to prevent that type of violence. And it was a humbling experience for me.
Service really does stem from a sense of calling. It's got to be something that, that people are not telling you but that you feel within you. You know, don't go into the Marine Corps to go to Harvard Business School or to build your résumé. That's the wrong reason to go into the Marine Corps. Know that there are other options for you if you decide not to make that a career. But go into the Marine Corps because you want to lead Marines in combat if our nation's at war.
My Marine Corps background is always with me every day. And fundamentally in the classroom it's about how do you present yourself, what decisions do you make, what judgments do you make, how do you carry yourself, live a life with integrity and show mutual respect to everyone that you encounter. These are sort of life principles that the Marine Corps instills in you, that guide you and I think by the way that the business community can learn a lot from the principles within the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps gives you a real sense of, you know, if you're going to lead, you better look out for everybody, particularly that, you know, the lowest-level person that may be supporting your organization, they matter. Everyone matters.