As the 2021 Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program concludes, Michael Bailey, the Bush Institute Leadership Programs Manager, reflects on the remarkable cohort and their time in the program.
Here on the Leadership Programs Team at the George W. Bush Institute, we always say that the secret sauce to the success of all our leadership programs is the Scholars themselves and the network that they build together.
For the first time in over a year and a half – and with the proper masking and COVID-19 protocols in place – we were privileged to welcome a Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program (VLP) class to the building! The 50 remarkable Scholars – now VLP alumni – made up our third cohort. To say we were excited to bring people together again would be an understatement!
Our Scholars represent the rich diversity of the veteran-support community, including active-duty service members, veterans, military spouses, and civilians. They focus on leading issue areas facing our veterans and their families today: health and well-being, education, employment and entrepreneurship, and more.
Throughout the five VLP modules, Scholars heard from program faculty and speakers such as Army Lieutenant General Nadja West, Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown, astronauts Dr. Jonny Kim and Commander Victor Glover, former Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald, and select VLP alumni, among others.
An Army veteran herself, Dr. Deborah Birx shared with our Scholars how her time in the military influenced her leadership and career trajectory as a physician, an immunologist, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Health Diplomacy, and the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator.
General James Mattis provided our Scholars with leadership lessons and principles from his perspective, including inspirational messages such as, “Don’t listen just to listen; listen with a willingness to be persuaded,” and “Listen, learn, help, and then lead… that’s how you build trust.”
Each of our Scholars came into the VLP program with a strong desire to create positive outcomes for our Nation’s veterans and their families. The Bush Institute believes they will do just that. Throughout the five months, Scholars work on what we call Personal Leadership Projects (PLPs), which are projects focused on outcomes they want to see within their communities and/or organizations to positively impact those they serve.
During the final module, each Scholar was given the opportunity to present their individual PLPs to an audience of esteemed panelists, Bush Center program supporters, family, friends, and others connected to our work at the Bush Institute. It’s always so inspiring to learn about the incredible work of our Scholars, listen to their stories and passions, and watch them achieve their goals.
To conclude the program, Scholars had the opportunity to meet with President and Mrs. Bush. President Bush shared his perspectives on leadership and why he and Mrs. Bush possess a steadfast commitment to this program and the veteran community. Mrs. Bush also participated in a tour of the 15-acre Native Texas Park at the George W. Bush Presidential Center with the cohort.
It has been an honor and a privilege to be surrounded by these 50 remarkable Scholars the last five months. To say I’m inspired would be an understatement. It is truly about the people, and I can’t wait to see the positive outcomes that this cohort will produce. Together, they will create change, and I am confident that the future is bright for our Nations’ veterans and their families because of these 50 leaders and their steadfast commitment to each other and to those they serve.