Saturday Round-up

13 June 2020

I’m going to bug you about this every day until the end of June, so be prepared. I’m doing my 65 at 65 in honour of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager murdered in 1993 in a horrific racist attack in London. I’m riding 65 miles on (or near) my 65th birthday, and raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. More info here. I figure it’s ok to pester you relentlessly because the cause is good.

In other news, you’ll recall that General Mark Milley accompanied Trump on his little photo-op after the Secret Service (or SS as Trump calls it) cut through protesters in Lafayette Square ‘like butter’. Milley subsequently claimed that he didn’t know about Trump’s plans beforehand and regrets that he was in combat uniform at the time. He’s clearly embarrassed by the whole affair and pretty keen to distance himself from Trump. My sister sent me a copy of the commencement address delivered by Milley to the National Defense University. The following excerpts deserve reading:

We are, indeed, leading the Joint Force in dynamic and uncertain times. The recent medical crisis has cost over 100,000 American lives, and it has stressed our health system, our economy, and the social fabric of our communities. All of these challenges and many more will exist in the national security framework under which you, each of you, will operate as senior officers. 

But we have also seen over the last two and a half weeks an especially intense and trying time for America. 

I am outraged by the senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd. 

His death amplified the pain, the frustration, and the fear that so many of our fellow Americans live with day in, day out. The protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing, but also to the centuries of injustice toward African Americans. What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago, liberated by the Civil War, but not equal in the eyes of the law until 100 years later in 1965. We are still struggling with racism, and we have much work to do. Racism and discrimination, structural preferences, patterns of mistreatment, and unspoken and unconscious bias have no place in America and they have no place in our Armed Forces. We must, we can, and we will do better. 

And we should all be proud that the vast majority of protests have been peaceful. Peaceful protest means that American freedom is working. And I’m also proud of the response of our National Guard forces, who provided excellent support to local and state law enforcement under the control of state governors in more than 30 states across the country. We never introduced federal troops on the streets of America as a result of the combined efforts of the Guard and law enforcement at quelling the violence and de-escalating very very tense situations. We all know that our system in the United States is imperfect, full of passionate debate, and continually evolving, and we in the military will continue to protect the rights and freedoms of all the American people. 

The foundational value that underpins American rights embedded in the Constitution is that all people, no matter who you are, are born free and equal, and I want to address this value in the context of our military. 

Our military has a mixed record on equality. We fought World War II with a racially-segregated military. The Tuskegee Airmen are just one example of courageous men who fought for freedoms they themselves did not enjoy at home. Racial segregation of the armed forces ended in 1948, and today the military has come to reflect the diversity of our nation – the strength of our nation. 

In recent decades, millions of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have been part of cohesive teams consisting of people of different races, genders, religions, and orientations working to accomplish their mission in peace and war, all over the globe. Our troops demonstrate every day their ability to thrive as a result of their diversity. The diversity of America is one of the core strengths of our nation, and therefore, it is a core strength of our military. 

And while the military sets an example for civil society through our inclusiveness, we too have not come far enough. We all need to do better. For example, although the United States military has a higher proportion of African Americans serving in our ranks than in society at large, only 7% of our flag and general officers are African American. The Navy and Marine Corps have no African Americans serving above the 2-star level, and the Army has just one African American 4-star. The United States Air Force will soon swear in our first African American Service chief – an achievement long overdue. We cannot afford to marginalize large portions of our potential talent pool or alienate certain demographic groups. No—we need all the talent that American society can muster. Our responsibility as military leaders is to ensure that each and every one of our service members is treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and each of them is given equal opportunity to excel. 

We must, we can, and we will do better. 

So what can we do? We will collectively take a hard look at how we recruit, retain, and promote talent within our Services. We must ensure that diverse candidates have equal opportunity to branch into the career fields and serve in key positions most likely to produce our future senior leaders. And we must ensure fairness and equity at all key gateway selection boards, including promotion, command, and war college. We must take advantage of the diversity committees, councils, and offices in each of the Services to identify best practices in talent management and act on them. 

Mentorship also plays a vital role. All of us in the military must engage in more meaningful mentoring today. So, how do you do that? As senior leaders we reach down into the pool of rising stars among our troops from all walks of life and put into action what you’ve learned in your career. None of us got to where we are by ourselves. We all have had a helping hand. Take an active interest in providing the next generation of leaders the tools they need to succeed. 

And be inclusive. Make a commitment to seek out and surround yourselves with those who don’t look like you, think like you, and who come from different backgrounds. Specifically, reach out to junior officers and enlisted members whose background is different than yours and mentor them. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you will help them grow into future leaders, and they will help you grow to be a better leader yourself. Equality and opportunity is a matter of readiness. It is the basis of cohesion. We fight wars as teams and we cannot tolerate anything that divides us. 

Let me conclude with two simple pieces of advice, based on 40 years in uniform, that you may find useful as many of you will surely go on to be flag officers. First is always maintain a keen sense of situational awareness. As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched. And I am not immune. As many of you saw, the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week. That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society. I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it. 

We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation, and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic. And this is not easy. It takes time, and work, and effort, but it may be the most important thing each and every one of us does every single day. 

And, my second piece of advice is very simple, embrace the Constitution. Keep it close to your heart. It is our North Star; it is our map to a better future. Though we are not a perfect union, believe in the United States, believe in our country, believe in your troops, and believe in our purpose. Few other nations have been able to change for the greater good, and that is because of the rights and values embedded in our Constitution. The freedoms guaranteed to us in the Constitution allow people to demand change, just as the peaceful protestors are doing all across the country. 

That is why we serve in the military. On day one, you and I, we all swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and its essential American principle: that all men and women are born free and equal. That is the foundation of our military ethos – who we are as service members and as an institution. All of us in uniform are willing to die for the idea, the idea that is America. And so we must also be willing to live for that idea. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peacefully assemble, freedom to vote, and freedom to believe you wish and your religion … these are essential freedoms that are the cornerstone of our country. Americans have spilled their blood to protect them in the past and they continue to be worth fighting for. This we will defend. 

As you graduate today, you are entering an increasingly dynamic and complex world that needs your leadership. Reflect on the past year and what you’ve learned about the current security environment, great power competition and our global responsibilities. But also reflect on what you have witnessed over the past two and a half weeks, what it means to all of us as Americans, and what it means to you and I as leaders. I have complete confidence in each and every one of you to lead when and where needed, to make sure we grow, improve, and remain the best military organization in the world. Together, our actions and words in the military will demonstrate that our differences do not divide us, but only make us stronger. 

I suppose it would be easy to be cynical about Milley’s speech. We can say that he should have objected on the spot. But he didn’t, and he has apologised for that. This is a brave speech. Trump is a vindictive man. Milley will pay in some what for what he has said. What impresses me is that he understands the importance of bold statements. Gestures they may be, but gestures can be powerful. I wish a certain principal of a university in St Andrews would take note.

And, with that, we move to the interweb:

My friend Skip sent me this little gem. The graphics aren’t great, but the song is brilliant:

It sounds unbelievable, but read this story about a woman who kept getting pulled over by police for no reason. She figured out that it was because her poodle in the front seat looked like a black man from a distance. When the dog died, the harassment ended.

As Josephine Baker once said of the Statue of Liberty, ‘What was the good of having the statue without the liberty?’

Shocking, I tell you. Simply shocking. Article here.

This is from the Second World War. Might as well recycle:

People who want to attend Trump’s rally in Tulsa have to sign a waiver to the effect that they won’t sue Trump, the Republican Party, or the venue if they catch Covid-19. This is what’s called a dilemma:

Remember when that cat went up the priest’s robe? A lot of you have been asking what happened next. Here’s the answer:

Michael Spicer has turned his talents to the racism issue:

Most of you have seen this before, but it bears another look. White privilege perfectly summarised:

Nope, me neither:

Today’s weird dog video is very weird:

This might be a solution to the whole problem:

On that subject of privilege:

No Caption Needed:

We haven’t heard from Cummings for a while. Here’s two issues cleverly intertwined:

American Got It:

I’ve ended up spending most of this day on the blog or on my fundraiser. Good thing I ditched the Recipes for the Apocalypse in order to free up time.

Stay safe. Be kind.

Published by DeGroovy

I am a journalist, historian, and professor at the University of St Andrews. I was born in the United States, but have lived in Scotland since 1980. I am a voracious reader, keen gardener, carpenter, cook and Mr. Fix-it.

4 thoughts on “Saturday Round-up

    1. Thanks so much. The route is actually 66.4 miles, so I might be coming back to you for $1.40. 😉 Or I might have Sharon drive me up the really long and steep hill at the very start. No reason to exhaust myself in the first five minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Take the drive from Sharon. The La Jolla half marathon starts with a steep little uphill. It’s mentally demoralizing. And I already spent the $1.40 on a cookie. 😉


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