Public Service for Everyone?

by Edward Henkler on October 28, 2014

The Naval Academy Alumni magazine recently featured a very interesting article about Admiral Mike Mullen (United States Navy, Retired). A below average student in college, he rose to the very highest position in the Armed Forces and is only the third naval officer in Navy history to hold four different four-star (full Admiral) roles. While his accomplishments are astounding, my focus is on one of his comments in the article. Quoting directly from the article, Admiral Mullen states the following:

Public service for all

“What concerns me is that the military makes up a very small percentage of the American people. We’re less than one percent. We come from fewer places, and there are fewer families that have any idea what the military is, know anybody that is in the military or have a family member that serves. I worry about the isolation of the military and the disconnect that exists between the American military and the American people.”

My first point relates to a previous post in which I mentioned a personal belief that everyone should engage in a period of public service. I’m not suggesting that it has to be the military, just something that is focused on societal rather than personal benefit. It’s hard to spend time in the military, a Food Bank, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or any other public service venue without becoming a bit more sensitive to the challenges nearly everyone faces at some point. I also think there’s value in holding a position where the reward is more from knowing you’re helping than collecting a large paycheck.

My second point returns to Todd Cohen’s Everyone’s in Sales book. Part of Admiral Mullen’s concern is that the military does a great job on their bases but may be less effective integrating with their community. Quoting again from the article:

“As a military we need to be much more aggressive in communicating with the American people not just on our bases where we’re comfortable, but in our communities. The only way the American people will gain a broader understanding of who we are and what we represent is by fully engaging with them. We have downsized ourselves considerably since the early 1990s, and while there is a financial benefit to that, there’s also a downside in that we’ve moved out of neighborhoods, churches and schools so the disconnect continues to grow.”

If you want people to understand your company’s work, then everyone from the company needs to be out their spreading the word.

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