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A Time for Listening and Leading

NPS Graduation Class Image President Message

As our nation wrestles with the tragedy of Mr. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau shares the importance of listening and leading … “shoulder to shoulder.”

Team NPS,
The events of the past week have been painful. This is a time for leaders to step forward then stand firm, listen and speak up.
Yesterday our Chief of Naval Operations published a message to the Fleet in a self-recorded video addressing the death of Mr. George Floyd. The text of Admiral Gilday’s message is below and I encourage you to watch his video. CNO’s message is heartfelt, honest and authentic, precisely the kind of leadership our Navy and nation need right now.
In fact, I want to share links to ALL of the DOD Service chiefs and Chairman who recently came forward together to put out strong messages to Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Soldiers and the American people (please see links at the end of my note).
I believe our NPS community reflects the promise of our Navy and Marine Corps, our military and of our nation — that talented people from across the country, indeed from around the world, with different backgrounds, ethnicity and life experiences can flourish here. NPS is an inclusive interservice, interagency and international campus. Inclusion and diversity of thought must be encouraged as part of our culture, not just as an academic institution, but as part of an unwavering value set that defines who we are.
We know intellectual advantage does not come from closed minds. We seek different perspectives and value diversity to enhance learning and research for a greater purpose. Our Faculty, our learning culture and our ethos acknowledge perspectives as well as biases as part of the learning process to elevate our thinking beyond assumptions and above the barriers of stereotypes or convention. We explore and seek to understand more deeply. Thereby we lead more effectively.
Here, at NPS we build lifelong bonds of friendship and camaraderie. The same forthright compassion as moral and ethical leaders that differentiates us as professionals in times of war equips, prepares and drives us to make a difference in times in crisis. The privilege of leadership requires our acknowledgement of our covenant – accountable for ourselves and obligated to others.  Our decency as a nation depends on our decency to and for each other. National decency begins with each of us as individuals.
Our military reflects the fabric of our country. Our uniforms are the cloth of our nation. Our lives as fellow citizens are inextricably woven together.
To quote a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  This means that as one of us suffers, we all do.  When we realize the necessity of dignity, compassion and respect for each other, we become better as human beings and stronger as a nation.  At some fundamental level of decency we should walk shoulder-to-shoulder, seeking ways to contribute and to ensure we manage disagreement toward higher purposes. As President Abraham Lincoln stated in the midst of national crisis: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.”  
Across NPS, in our communities, in our hard work, and in our dedication to the noble act of teaching and learning we should expect the best of ourselves and continue to lead in ways, shoulder-to-shoulder, that exemplify our core values and inspire confidence in the goodness of our people.
With great respect,
Ann E. Rondeau, Ed.D.
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
President, Naval Postgraduate School
CNO Admiral Gilday’s Video:
Text of CNO’s Message:
“Good evening, I wanted to take a few moments to talk to our Navy family – our officers, our enlisted Sailors, our Navy civilians, and our families – about the murder of Mr. George Floyd and the events that we have all watched on TV for the last several nights.
It’s been a very sad time for our country - a confusing time. And most of us are trying to figure it out and trying to ask ourselves, “What can we do?” “How can we contribute in a positive way to change things so that these things never happen again?”
I’ve been in the Navy for a long time and I’ve had a lot of experiences. Something I have never experienced and something I will never experience is that I will never walk in the shoes of a black American or any other minority. I will never know what it feels like when you watch that video of Mr. Floyd’s murder. And I can’t imagine the pain and the disappointment and the anger that many of you felt when you saw that. Because it’s not the first time, it’s happened time and time again in our country.
I don’t have all the answers, and as CNO I can’t write an order and change a policy that’s going to fix things. So, I thought I’d make a couple of points.
First right now, I think we need to listen. We have black Americans in our Navy and in our communities that are in deep pain right now. They are hurting. I’ve received emails, and I know it’s not a good situation. I know that for many of them, they may not have somebody to talk to. I ask you to consider reaching out, have a cup of coffee, have lunch, and just listen.
The second thing I would ask you to consider in the Navy we talk a lot about treating people with dignity and respect – in fact, we demand it. It’s one of the things that makes us a great Navy and one of the things that makes me so proud of all of you every single day. But over the past week, after we’ve watched what is going on, we can’t be under any illusions about the fact that racism is alive and well in our country. And I can’t be under any illusions that we don’t have it in our Navy.
Racism happens a lot and it happens with people that we don’t normally expect. It happens with people who are friendly, generous, and kind as well. It could be a friend, a coworker, it could be a family member or a close acquaintance. And they say something, and it’s not right. And you know it’s not right. But because they’re a friend, and you know them well, and they’re a good person. You say to yourself “they didn’t mean that…they didn’t mean for it to come out that way.” But it did. And they had that thought. And they verbalized it. There was a consequence and somebody was probably hurt by it.
So, when that happens, I want you to think about is approaching that person. Think about dignity and respect. Think about having a private conversation – an honest conversation in educating them. Make them more self-aware of what they did and what they said. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue. And we’ll have more weeks like we’ve had this week. And we’ll be disappointed. We’ll be more disappointed in ourselves because we let it happen. We let it happen.
I’m really proud of the Navy. I’m such an optimist about not only where we’ve been but where we are going. Let’s make it the best Navy possible. Let’s make it the best Navy for everybody.
Thanks for listening. Have a good night.”
Joint Chiefs:
Marine Corps:
Air Force:

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