In a recent conversation with the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program Scholars, Major General Alfred K. Flowers said “We’ve got to have candid discussions with young people in civics classes about what it means to be a public servant… There’s a price for living in a free country, and public service is the price you pay for living here. We were born here, we get to live here, and we owe” it to our country.
Public service plays an important role in our democracy. Yet public service, and the propensity to serve, is in decline. There are several examples of this: a record drop in volunteerism, decreases in charitable giving, and missing recruitment targets for the military, to name a few.
The United States needs of public service role models to look to, and when I think of who those exemplars are, my mind goes directly to the military-connected community and those who serve them.
At the Bush Institute, we are committed to investing in and maximizing the impact of our nation’s veterans and those who serve them and their families. Through our Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, we bring together midcareer professionals across industry, sector, geography, and racial and ideological backgrounds to develop a network of individuals fully committed to service to country, whether that be through the military or by supporting veterans and military families in their respective communities.
The magic factor in the success of the program is the Scholars themselves. By promoting civility, fostering respectful disagreement and important dialogue, they embody what democracy looks like in action. At both an individual level and at a collective level, they are having real impact for veterans and military families.
This November concluded our five-month program for the 33 Scholars who made up the Veteran Leadership Program Class of 2023, and it was full of memories. Scholars heard from a variety of speakers, including Major General Flowers, former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, and Dr. Deborah Birx. From team building experiences to visits to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and meeting with current Secretary Denis McDonough to the White House and even a Washington Commanders football game, this cohort joined the program in July as a room full of strangers and left in November as a family.
Our Veteran Leadership Program Scholars are some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I know. Frankly, I could write a blog about each and every one of them. I am constantly humbled and amazed by their commitment to service and country.
While service is in decline, I am hopeful that others will be reminded of the importance of service to our country. Why? Because of people like our Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program Scholars. They show us every day that we each have a role to play in making the United States a thriving democracy, that we each have the capacity to make a positive impact in the lives of others, and that we each have a heart to lend in the causes we are most passionate about.
Applications for the Class of 2024 are now open. If you are committed to promoting positive outcomes for veterans and their families in your work and believe you’re at an inflection point in your career, this is the program for you. You can learn more and apply here.