Sunday, June 29, 2008

Billy Joel in Concert - Simply the Best!

I have long been a fan of Billy Joel. If Bob Dylan is the prophet for my generation (the Jurassic Generation?), then I would submit that Billy Joel is our Poet Laureate. My admiration for his musicianship and artistry grew even more after my son, Scott, gave me a wonderful gift of a 4-disc "Best of the Best of Billy Joel" album - technically entitled: Billy Joel's Greatest Hits 1973-1997. This set includes not only his best songs, but a fourth disc that is a very revealing and insightful Q&A session with him talking about the inspiration and creative process behind the writing of some of his most memorable songs. In the year and a half since Scott gave me this gift, I have listened to the whole thing dozens of times. And I vowed that if Billy Joel ever performed within a few hundred miles of Boston, I would be there. I made good on that vow this weekend.

So, I made the trek down to Mohegan Sun for the first time last night to sit in the audience and allow the genius of Billy Joel - and his assortment of seven supremely gifted back-up musicians - to wash over me like a healing ocean wave. It was a picture perfect evening. The presentation of each song - over 2 dozen by the time the last echoes of the final encore had faded into the Connecticut night - was flawless. I can't remember having a better time at a live concert. I felt that the money I had to pay was worth it. I had a marvelous time.

So, I offer two recommendations:

1) Invest in Billy Joel's Greatest Hits 1973-1997. You won't regret it.

2) If you have a chance to see him perform live, it is worth going out of your way to do so.

It is still a pleasure to put bread in the jar of The Piano Man!


A Moment of Quiet Meditation on a Sunday - Slide Show of Ecclesiastes 3

My sister was kind enough to forward me a link to a very beautiful and peaceful slide show that follows the text of Ecclesiastes 3 - one of the most moving and oft-quoted passages in Scripture:

"To everything there is a season and a time and purpose under heaven . . ."

Ecclesiastes 3

Enjoy, and God bless!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Wall-E" - An Astonishing Work of Art

I do not bestow the word "Masterpiece" lightly; I do it exuberantly in describing Pixar's new instant classic film, "Wall-E." Had I not been motivated to want to bring my grandchildren - ages 5 and 3 - to see this computer animated offering from Disney's Pixar studios, I might never have chosen to go - and that would have been a grave error of omission. This film, while appropriate for children as young as my grandchildren - is a morality tale aimed at the mind and heart of every adult consumer on the planet.

Ty Burr of The Boston Globe - and my favorite film critic - calls it the best film of the year. I could not agree more. I commend you to Ty's full review:

Ty Burr Review

This is a film that should not be missed by anyone who loves cinema, anyone who wants to see an art form expressed at its highest level, and anyone who enjoys a well-told story. There is genius behind this project, and it is a joy and a wonder to behold the finished product. This is a robot story with a heart. There are serious themes explored here prophetically, but with a sense of whimsy and wonder that make the trip to the theater worth while - even if gas balloons to $40 a gallon!

Do not miss this film!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mini-Review: “In the Men’s House” by Capt. Carol Barkalow with Andrea Raab

My recent visit to the West Point campus for the graduation of the Class of 2008 and their concomitant commissioning as the Army’s freshest batch of 2nd Lieutenants reminded me of how different the composition of this class was from ones that graduated less than 30 years ago. The Class of 1980 was the first class to include female graduates. I number among my friends several women who have had the experience of being in the minority of the West Point campus as they pursued their education and military training. Several have said to me, “If you want to get a glimpse at some of the dynamics of what we endured, read Captain Carol Barkalow’s book.”

Captain Barkalow, in collaboration with Andrea Raab, chronicles what it was like for her to be part of the initial class of women to be admitted to West Point. She shares her recollections based on hand-written diaries that she kept during her time as a cadet and as an Army officer. She was one of 119 young women admitted to West Point’s Class of 1980. The nation’s service academies had been mandated by Congress to expand their candidate pools to include women.

Through detailed anecdotes, Captain Barkalow offers insights into what it felt like to make a frontal assault against almost 200 years of all-male tradition at the fortress that hugs the mountainside along the Hudson River.

I will share the author’s observations on the occasion of the second class of female plebes entering the Academy in 1977:

“With the arrival of the new Fourth Class in the summer of 1977, the women of my class were confronted with the task of administering what little authority we had over a younger version of ourselves. I, for one, tried to make it my policy to use hazing as a means to correct plebes, not to harass them. Most of my female classmates behaved in similar fashion, but there were dissenting opinions. Others, once free of the shackles of the Fourth Class System, flatly refused to participate in hazing of any kind. In another group there were some enthusiastic female participants, a number of whom went overboard harassing younger women – ordering them to do rapid-fire changes of uniform, summoning them into their rooms for questioning like Grand Inquisitors, grilling them relentlessly on their memorization of trivia. Most of these women claimed they needed to be demonstrably tougher on female plebes so no one could accuse them of showing favoritism. I believe these women suspected – and rightly so – that our newly acquired upperclass status did not unanimously assure our position within the Corps. Even as the ranks of women cadets gradually swelled from one classful to two, many of us remained in separate camps. At best, we observed each other from a distance – across a divide of diffidence, misunderstanding and fear.” (Page 82)

This is book is a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the history of West Point, the role of women in the military and the topic of institutional change.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review of “Something To Die For” by James Webb

The junior Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia has been in the news as a potential VP candidate to share the Democratic ticket with Senator Obama. So this seems like an opportune time to write about another of his outstanding works of fiction. (I am not referring to the Federal budget, but one of the novels he has penned over the years!) I found his writing so compelling that I am committed to reading all of his published works.

“Something To Die For” is not only well written; it is timely. Webb, the much-decorated Marine who fought in Vietnam, wrote this novel back in 1991. The subject matter involves an ex-Marine who has to choose whether or not to stand for election to Congress from Virginia. How prescient! I agree wholeheartedly with the comments made by the Washington Post Book World when this novel was first published: “Webb is not only a writer of war thriller; he is a genuine novelist of ideas. . . A century hence, James Webb will be studied for the light he sheds on military life and civil-military relations at the climax of the American Century.” As we struggle with how to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to re-integrate into civil society, Webb’s book becomes even more relevant to the mainstream of American life than it was when it was first published in the ‘90’s.

This exchange early in the book reflects the sensibilities of a warrior who watched too many of his comrades die needlessly in the steaming jungles of Southeast Asia:

“As they discussed future needs for amphibious sealift, General Betti had begun to disagree with a young assistant secretary of defense on the likelihood of Third World conflicts in the near future. General Betti had begun, ‘Mr. Secretary, I disagree. I think –‘

And the Young man with the round lawyer’s glasses and the pink shirt with its yellow power tie had cut the career infantryman off with a wave of the hand. ‘Well, that’s the problem, General. You are not paid to think.’

And neither am I, thought Fogarty as he finally answered the Admiral. ‘Of course I’m on board, sir. I’m a professional, you know that. But if we fight an armored column of Cubans in the desert it’s going to cost us. And I’d like to be able to tell my men that the price they’re going to pay is worth it. That it’s important to the country. Vital. Something to die for.’” (Page 72)

A quotation near the end of the novel provides some fascinating insight into the views of the future Senator into the workings of Washington machinery:

“You may wonder why the President keeps listening to someone like Rowland, when he behaves so obscenely. That’s easy. It’s because Rowland has answers, and he knows how to get things done. Even when, sometimes, the wrong things get done, or the right things get done for the wrong reasons. Government requires motion, perhaps even more than wisdom. And there is a constant temptation to depend on those who know how to keep it moving, rather than demanding that it stay on any particular course. But I suppose that’s the grand conundrum, isn’t it?” (Page 382)

This book is worth reading on several levels. It stands on its own as a piece of fiction that tells a tale of characters the readers comes to care about. It also provides some glimpses - through intricately shaded stained glass windows - into the mind of one of the 100 citizens whom we have entrusted to run the upper house of the Legislative branch of our federal government.



Book Review: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck

Is is possible that Netflix may boost literacy? I just did a Netflix mini-retrospective look at James Dean's films: "Rebel Without a Cause," "Giant" and "East of Eden." Watching the complex story of "East of Eden," reminded me that I had never read the Steinbeck novel from which the film was adapted. This came as a surprise to me, since I am a huge fan of Steinbeck's writings and have long considered "The Grapes of Wrath" among my favorite novels. So, I embarked on reading the novel. I was expecting it to be good; I was unprepared for the depth of the writing and the brilliant insight into human nature that marked Steinbeck's writing at this stage of his career. In my opinion, if he had never written another novel besides "East of Eden," he would have been worthy of the Nobel Prize that he won in 1962.

The story is a complex and very moving modern setting of the Cain and Abel story told at multiple levels through several generations of the Trask family. Adam and Charles Trask lay the groundwork for the narrative by vying for the affection of their father, an ersatz Civil War hero who carved out a reputation and a fortune by misrepresenting the role that he played in key battles of the War Between the States. The saga continues into its main section with Adam's two sons - Cal and Aron - struggling to please him. Adam is raising them as a single father - with the not inconsiderable help from Lee, the live-in Chinese cook - after his wife abandoned the family shortly after giving birth to the twins.

The most profound musings that stand as the intellectual and spiritual center of the novel are found exactly halfway through the narrative. The setting is that Lee, the Chinese cook, is having a theological discussion with a neighbor, Samuel. The crux of the discussion bears on varying translations of Genesis 4:7, in which God addresses Cain and implores him to overcome the temptation to sin. Lee describes the result of two years' of study by elders in the Chinese community who had undertaken to understand the issue in all of its subtleties:

"After two years we felt we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too - 'Thou shalt not' and 'Do thou.' And this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' 'Thou mayest rule over sin.' The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells, too, and right now they are studying Greek.

Samuel said: 'It is a fantastic story. And I've tried to follow and maybe I've missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?'

Lee's hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. 'Don't you see?' he cried. 'The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in "Thou shalt not." meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel -"Thou mayest" - that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if "Thou mayest" it is also true that "Thou mayest not."

"Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?"

"Ah!" said Lee. "I've wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order 'Do thou,' and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in 'Thou shalt.' Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But 'Thou mayest'! Why, that makes a man great, then gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he still has the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win." Lee's voice was a chant of triumph.

Adam said, "Do you believe that, Lee?"

"Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, 'I couldn't help it; the way was set.' But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There's no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?" (Pages 301-2)

Steinbeck's argument reminded me of the exquisite Grand Inquisitor passage in Dostoevsky's magnum opus, "The Brothers Karamazov." The Inquisitor confronts a Christ who has returned to earth during the Spanish Inquisition and excoriates him for having condemned mankind to freedom of choice. Both Steinbeck and Dostoevsky are delving into levels that represent the quantum physics of the soul. This is great literature - writing that combines story telling as an art form with profound examination of the human condition.

Even in the age of Netflix and Grand Theft Auto IV, there is still room for great writing - and great reading.



Talent alert - Positions in Boston and Northern California

From time to time, I make readers of The White Rhino Report aware of special searches I have under way on behalf of some of my client companies. Here are a few searches I am working on that you may be able to help with by disseminating the information to those you know who may be interested.


The top priority is a Scientist Strategist role with a leading fuel cell company in Folsom, CA. I just placed one of my candidates there as the head of Business Development, and they now need to hire a few technical people to support the business he will be bringing in. They prefer someone already in California, but would consider relocation for the right person. This is an immediate need. The position will pay around $100K plus some bonus.
They also have a need for a Fuel Systems Engineer.

A Cambridge-based consulting firm has asked me to help with three searches.

Principal Engineer - Embedded Software
Principal Engineer - Diagnostic devices
Principal Engineer - Medical devices
These need to be people who are not only technically proficient, but in a consulting environment, can be client-facing and have good communication skills. All three of these positions are targeted at $90-120K base + about a 6% bonus. They will relocate the right person.

Also, a Cambridge-based non-profit needs a very sharp Executive Assistant to support the President. The right candidate should be a good technical assistant and officer manager, and also have a passion for the arts and passion for the mission for the organization, which is building an innovative complex of performance spaces near the MIT campus.

Rather than clog up this posting with full job descriptions, I am trying an experiment with a new resource called "" All of these job descriptions can be accessed by having interested people log onto:

As always, I appreciate your help in making the right people aware of these opportunities.



Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Beyond Orders – Helping to Win the War on Terror by Helping to Win Hearts and Minds

The recently published dialogue between Capt. Dave Gowel and Dougan Sherwood has prompted some interesting discussion and commentary. Dougan asks the question: “What can I - as a civilian - do to make a difference on the War on Terror?” As I ponder the answers to that question, it occurs to me that this is an opportune time to make Dougan – and the other readers of The White Rhino Report – aware of some organizations that are effectively creating opportunities for citizens to become involved in supporting those who are, or have been, on the front lines of the War on Terror. With that in mind, I want to make you aware of an organization founded by several friends of mine – Beyond Orders.

Here is the story of the organization and its genesis:

After his initial brainstorm, Harvard student Tin-Yung Ho spoke with Rajiv Srinivasan, a West Point cadet, and the two decided to launch the project. Soon, Matt Scherrer, a Harvard Business student and 2001 Princeton graduate who had served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, and Kate Buzicky, a Harvard Law student and fellow Princeton ROTC graduate, were on board.

The site’s founders believe that Beyond Orders fills a gap; the U.S. can now meet the humanitarian needs of Iraqi communities. Various non-profits and NGOs operate in Iraq, but due to security concerns, keep mainly to its safest areas. Therefore, many of the communities that are most in need of this type of aid go without it. The military itself does what it can, but is already strained with operational concerns, which naturally take priority over distributing sewing machines. By sending items directly to soldiers’ APO (Army Post Office) addresses, Beyond Orders circumvents some of these problems and helps get these items where they are needed, allowing soldiers to help out Iraqi communities and build goodwill between Americans and Iraqis.

More recently, Beyond Orders has set up a method by which civilians can donate money to go towards helping soldiers obtain the items they would like, a feature which may expand the site’s capabilities significantly once it starts bringing in sizeable donations. The concept of Beyond Orders is similar to sites such as Any Soldier, which allows civilians to send items to make U.S. soldiers’ lives more comfortable, but by switching the focus to the local populations the soldiers are serving, allows both the soldier and the civilian to feel a sense of fulfillment at having made a difference in a community in crisis. At this stage, the expansion of this non-profit project depends largely on getting the word out to civilians, many of whom would no doubt like to assist in the soldiers’ efforts, but aren’t sure how. Judging by the requests on the site, quite a few soldiers are eager to, as Beyond Orders puts it “rise above the call of duty for the Iraqi people.” Beyond Orders makes it easier for civilians to get involved and lend a hand.

Regular readers of The White Rhino Report will recognize the name of Rajiv Srinivasan from a recent posting about the making of a West Point cadet.

Making of a West Point Officer

Matt Sherrer became a friend of mine when he served as one of the Co-Presidents of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School.

Together with their friends and colleagues, Rajiv and Matt have created an organization that addresses a significant need.

I encourage you to visit the Beyond Orders Website, and make a cash donation or ship needed supplies to one of our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

What Makes a Good Coach? - Rowing Coach Ryan Sparks Puts His Oar in the Water

Over the years, I have dealt with many successful business executives. I find that the vast majority of the men and women who make it to the corner office and attain the title of CEO were successful athletes. Much to my surprise, the one sport that seems to show up with the greatest frequency among business leaders is the sport of rowing. So, when a mutual friend introduced me to Ryan Sparks, I was intrigued to learn that at a relatively young age, Ryan has amassed an amazing record of success as a rowing coach. Sparks has held coaching jobs on three continents - on the junior, masters, club, varsity collegiate and international pre-elite levels. Of the boats he has coached, 92% have made the ‘A’ level final in their respective championships.

So, when Ryan and I got together a few weeks ago in Hartford, I asked him a number of questions about his approach to coaching, and then asked him if he would organize his thoughts so that I could share them with the readers of The White Rhino Report.

On race day, a rowing coach has very little to do with the performance of their team. He or she shoves them off the dock and walks away. They must trust that the action of the stroke will be implemented seamlessly through a variety of conditions and situations by all nine members of the rowing shell simultaneously with vicious strength.

The challenge of rowing is that it is an endurance sport which requires nine people to perform precisely timed actions together as they suffer under the load of more and more lactic acid. While the action of the stroke is consistent, it is complex and requires as much grace as strength. Challenges arise when the keel of the boat drops off to one side, causing timing errors – or when the boat simply ‘feels heavy’ through the stroke. The successful athlete will learn how to move through these things and have a very low tolerance for them.

As a coach, I’ve found the easiest way to create consistency and trust within the boat is to create a culture of consistency within each training session. I lead by creating consistent norms and expectations and work not to micromanage each athlete’s individual process. This can create a very stable, predictable environment where people feel secure and excited to get things done. In time, this becomes a machine I can feed with a certain amount of knowledge every day in order to satisfy consistent expectations for performance and improvement. This consistency in turn translates to competition, where everything must come together without a coach.

Over the last year, I’ve learned how to implement the concept of ownership within my coaching style. This has served as an extremely effective motivator. In rowing, teams are made of two or more boats of nine people. Each boat has its own training dynamic and its own performance goals – by creating a baseline with a consistent, stable environment and allowing each boat to own a small portion of the training process once they feel comfortable has proved excellent in terms of getting the most out of everyone. The athletes are allowed input and decision making power regarding the pieces of knowledge that I then feed the ‘machine’ for the day. This comes as a reward for their individual boat’s above average performance the day before, and results in pushing the standards of training higher given the value placed on that day’s knowledge increases overall expectations. I believe this - when controlled in a reasonable manner - allowed me to make major gains with each boat at crucial times during the season.

I just finished a contract at Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine. The problem with rowing in Maine is that there’s hardly any water until the middle of the season, when Connecticut schools have been rowing for four weeks. Athletes at Bates must therefore lose to win – they have to trust the improvement curve they’re on as steeper than the schools that beat the daylights out of them at the beginning of their season and continually work hard even as they lose given the lack of water time. I believe that consistency and ownership was one of the pieces that allowed both the men’s and the women’s teams I worked with to finish top five in the country in Division III at the end of the year.

It occurs to me that the principles that Ryan outlines so clearly that have led to success for his teams may explain some of the business success of rowers who have taken these lessons from the water to board room.

Thank you, Ryan, and best wishes for continued success for you and for your rowers.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

TALENT ALERTS - Boston + Sacramento area

Among the searches that I have underway, I want to make you aware of two searches I am conducting on behalf of client companies on the East Coast and West Coast. In each case, if you are aware of qualified candidates, please have them contact me.

Fuel System Engineer/Chemical Engineer


A leading company in the domain of portable fuel cell power systems is currently recruiting for a Fuel System Engineer for our manufacturing facility that is located in the Sacramento, California area.

Job Description:

The position is for an engineer to lead the development of advanced hydrogen fuel systems. The ideal candidate will combine in depth chemical knowledge with a systems design mentality. The Fuel Systems Engineer will take a lead role in: design of chemical hydride systems, evaluation of new hydrogen generation technology, and continuous improvement for existing hydrogen generation system.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Principal Engineer - Embedded Software

Boston, MA based with some travel to UK

Main purpose of the job

A leading technology and innovation company is seeking an embedded software engineer to be a part of a multidisciplinary team developing medical devices.

Position responsibilities

You will take a lead role in the development of embedded software for electronic medical products ranging from implantable devices to diagnostic platforms.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Please forward to anyone you feel may be qualified and interested in either position. Have them contact me at and I will be happy to send a full job description.

Thank you.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Invitation to a Dialogue: What Can I Do to Make A Difference?

A few weeks ago, my friend, Dougan Sherwood, came to me with an intriguing question. In a nutshell, the essence of his question was this:

“I am a 30-something young man – husband and father of a young son. I hear of all that is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and the War on Terror, and I see the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families are making. I don’t feel as if I am being asked to sacrifice anything. I want to be able to do something. Short of my enlisting in the military, what do you suggest?”

My response to Dougan was to say:

“What a great question. I wish more people felt the same way. Let’s begin by letting me introduce you to my friend, Capt. Dave Gowel. Dave is a West Point grad who has been deployed and is now back in the U.S. as part of the ROTC faculty for the Paul Revere Battalion at MIT. Although you come from different places politically and experientially, you are both bright and inquisitive Renaissance Men who would benefit from knowing each other.”

It took a few weeks for us to coordinate schedules, but eventually, Dave Gowel, Dougan Sherwood and I shared a long and loquacious meal at the Kendall Square Legal Seafood. The conversation was riveting as these two young loyal Americans quickly found common ground as we explored how someone like Dougan might devote some of his time and energy in reaching out to serve those who have served overseas. Dougan and Dave have both reflected on what we experienced that day, and have given me permission to share the thoughts that they articulated in letters to me.


Here are my thoughts from our lunch.

Since our first meeting, I've come to you on many occasions for advice, direction on everything. In every instance, you've not only diagnosed whatever cause is affecting me, but you have offered an approach to the solution that is truly unique - and spot on. I know your ultimate resource is the Good Book. But in the case of advising me on this topic, I think introducing me to Dave Gowel is about as close a second as can be.

I came to you b/c I recognize that the history of the past seven years is the War on Terror, which is being played out through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. American's haven't been asked to sacrifice and the overwhelming responsibilities of the War of Terrorism have been left to the few serving in the military. There is very little personal about this war for me. I know only one person who's served in Iraq (and I don't know him very well).

Over the past couple of years, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with how little the America people are involved in this war. I truly feel that America is not at war. The American military is. My personal commitment has been limited to reading the news, studying history, paying taxes and being a role model for my very little boy. These are important but they're indirect. I am now to the point where my instincts and sense of decency are pushing me to play a more active and direct role. I don't know how this will unfold, but my first action step was going to you and you introducing me to Dave. From my view, in Dave, you've put a face and a name to a "person" whom I've admired and honored for several years. He's a remarkable man and I was struck by his kindness, humility - and normalcy! He thanked me for my willingness to join him for lunch and brought paper to take notes about what I said! He's the one doing me a favor and I have to wait for him to finish thanking me before I could share my gratitude! Unexpected. I learned a lot simply through his approach to this lunch.

I basically wanted to know what a 33 year old husband and father of a one year old can do to support the War on Terrorism from the perspective of someone who's served. Paying taxes isn't service, and there's no reason why I should be waiting for my government to call me to act. I wanted to know if what I was feeling made any sense to someone in the military and what suggestions they might have for me. Would Dave tell me to join the Army?

This meeting was the beginning of a dialogue that has potential to spread in any direction. Dave did not shy from affirming his view that the ultimate sacrifice is to enlist. But he also emphasized that there's I can do without necessarily joining the military. He encouraged me to consider my interests and strengths and together we'd discuss how to put them to serve the military community and the War on Terror.

I don't have many friends who tell me they lose sleep b/c they feel disconnected from this war. But how can they not be feeling how I feel to some degree? I believe that many other civilians do feel as I do, but like me, find it very hard to engage. One lunch with Dave and I now have a real personal connection to the war that confirms everything I've been feeling for the past several years.

Inspired, Grateful, Humbled.



I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to get to know your friend and now mine, Dougan Sherwood. In preparing for my departure from ten years of wearing the uniform, it was invigorating to speak with an American as sincere and patriotic as him. In the past decade, I have had many people (friends and perfect strangers alike) offer their thanks for my military service in the form of words, letters, and care packages while I was deployed to Iraq and at home. Dougan’s approach, though, to supporting the troops is one that ranks among the most appreciated gestures that I can recall.

His desire to support his military makes me proud to serve. It’s not everyday that someone who has spent his own time, energy and resources to cultivate leadership in America’s youth feels as if he’s been delinquent in supporting his country. The results from a quick web search on his name paint the picture of an exceptional individual that has not earned those restless nights caused by the absence of connection to the war. I took notes on his words during that conversation because I see it as my duty to help this awesome American use his talents to support our troops.

On one level, I’m proud that my brethren (and literally, my brother) currently serving in harm’s way tonight are doing their job so well that many Americans can list their greatest immediate concerns to be the high price of their gas and the low price of their homes. It’s our job to fight and win America’s wars so America can continue to enjoy that which we protect. On another level, nobody wants to be forgotten and more importantly, nobody wants for those they care about to be forgotten. I agree that the military is bearing a disproportionate burden and it isn’t fully captured by the 4,085 individual tragedies for the families of the Americans killed in this war. The advances in body armor for this conflict have dampened that oft recited number of soldiers lost. This equipment has dramatically altered the standard wartime ratios of soldiers killed to soldiers wounded resulting in the “less visible” 30,143 soldiers who have come as close as one can to making the Ultimate Sacrifice. Most of them have a daily reminder in the form of a scar, a missing limb, chronic pain or a lost sense. Coupled with the unrecorded numbers of troops suffering from PTSD, I do think that these wounded sons and daughters of America, although maybe not forgotten, aren’t receiving the support they deserve. I look forward to collaborating with Dougan (and anyone else bearing even a shred of the steel cable-like moral fiber he has demonstrated) to help those pillars of our freedom live the lives they haven’t been able to because of their sacrifices. And it is because of Americans like Dougan, that such sacrifices are worth making.



Dave Gowel

Captain, Armor

Assistant Professor of Military Science


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I think it is clear why I felt the need to share the thoughts – and dialogue – between these two remarkable young men. It is my hope and prayer that it may inspire you to engage in your own dialogue – to reach out to someone different than yourself and ask: “What can I do to make a difference?”

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Best of the Best - Adding to the Long Gray Line

I had the chance yesterday to share in the celebrations and festivities at West Point as close to a thousand men and women graduated, and were commissioned as the U.S. Army's newest 2nd Lieutenants. Among the cadets I have come to know personally in the Class of 2008, they have amassed an impressive array of awards and honors. Here is a small sampling of their achievements. One of them is a Fulbright scholar, another was chosen to attend medical school, yet another was the ranking scholar in the Economics Department. Two of the cadets were part of the Model Arab League Team that won back-to-back national championships. One of them was among the top 20 USA Today's 2008 All-American Scholar team.

All of these distinctions I mentioned above are known to the public. What impresses me even more - and is indicative of the character that undergirds these remarkable young leaders - are some of the things they have chosen to do below the radar of public scrutiny. Not many people are aware that a group of about 15 cadets decided to signal the beginning of their final day as members of the Corps of Cadets by gathering at midnight near Trophy Point to spend time in prayer. They prayed for one another, for their classmates and families and for those who are in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday afternoon, only a handful of us were able to observe a very private moment when one of the newly-minted 2LT's gave a gift and a letter to a young man from New York City whom he has mentored. This young man - who may have had precious few positive male role models in his life - was clearly deeply moved, and looked with a combination of admiration and awe at this young soldier who had chosen to invest many of his precious free hours in acting as a Big Brother to the teenager.

Each of the men and women who took the oath of office as 2nd Lieutenants swore to defend the nation against all enemies - "foreign or domestic." The knowledge that their sons and daughters would soon be heading into a theater of war made the day a bittersweet one for the proud parents who filled Michie Stadiuim with cheers - and tears. The commencement speaker, Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Pete Geren, thanked the families of the graduates for being willing to give the Nation the gift of "that which is most precious to you." With the infusion into our armed forces of the high caliber leaders like the 972 who graduated yesterday from West Point - and their comrades in arms who graduated from the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy - it is hard for me to envision any enemy - foreign or domestic - who would be able to defeat us. Our future is being entrusted to some very capable and caring hands.

Please join me in praying for guidance and protection for our Army's newest officers.