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How My Fellow Stand-To Scholars are Restoring My Faith in our Democracy

A participant in the Bush Institute's Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program explains how her classmates have helped reinvigorate her desire to make a difference.

Article by Tiffany Daugherty September 6, 2018 //   5 minute read

“The strength of a democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America somehow has always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at times of greatest need.”
-President George W. Bush

President Bush’s words at the funeral of Sen. John McCain beautifully summarized both the life of a great American hero and the core of my experience in the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. In fact, every element of the program has illuminated the importance of values-based leadership. 

In our first module, we heard President Bush speak of his own decision-making and Col. Miguel Howe describing how the President’s values were woven into every action he took on September 11, 2001. Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown spoke to us about how understanding history and bringing empathy to his work allowed him to transform the relations between citizens and law enforcement. These stories filled me with hope and inspiration for what is possible through leadership.

When I joined this program, I expected to develop leadership skills and join a new community of practice, but that has not been the greatest gift of the program. I have received a renewed faith in the America that our forefathers envisioned, a reinvigorated sense that we can each work to move our nation closer to that vision, and an understanding that there are faithful and capable leaders surrounding us.

I believe that each of my fellow scholars will play a part in upholding the inherent values of our democracy and shaping a better landscape for the military community. By ensuring veterans and their families have access to education, employment, and health care, we help great leaders confidently take posts of leadership at times of greatest need.

As the African proverb states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program actively seeks to “build an alumni community and a ‘community of practice’ around the military veteran support sector that sustains past the time of the actual program itself […]” The program has already fostered a community of practice that extends beyond the bounds of our time physically together.

The input and work of my fellow scholars has enhanced and informed my own work to support veterans and their families. In my role in Military and Veteran Affairs at First Data Corporation, I assist veterans and military spouses who seek to build careers in the corporate sector or start their own businesses. Since starting the Stand-To VLP program, I have worked with fellow scholars from corporations to share best practices. Scholars in mental health professions, including Duane France and Meaghan Mobbs, have equipped me with a deeper understanding of transition stress as well as the intersection of mental health and employment.

I have had an opportunity to consult experts in higher education on best practices for supporting student veterans transitioning to the private sector like Jennifer Goetz of Washington University, as well as James Schmeling and Jared Lyons from Student Veterans of America. These conversations will help to shape military hiring strategies across First Data and steward the best career path experience through our Military-Affiliated Analyst Program.

We are a great nation, and that greatness lies in the values, courage, and action of its citizens who are driven by faith in its potential. This program is full of courageous citizens, like Brian Thompson, who is working within the Department of Education to empower other veterans to lead in America’s classrooms. Cicely Burrows-McElwain is driving veteran screening in healthcare settings through her work at SAMSHA. Chris Lowhorn is leveraging her own transition experience to help others navigate the process at State Farm and beyond. Anne Meree Craig is championing a model of quality over quantity and helping veterans explore their big dreams.

I have gained a deeper understanding that we never have to figure out how to improve opportunities for veterans and their families alone. We, as a collective community of scholars, will improve the lives of veterans through clarity of our values, faith in our democracy, and collaboration with each other and our communities.

Tiffany Daugherty is the manager and head of Military Employment at First Data Corporation, where she continuously works to increase the impact on employment of veterans and military spouses. She is a member of the inaugural class of the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program.