September 18, 2012

General David Petraeus speaks at the University of Louisville

Director General David Petraeus

By Michelle Eigenheer–

The challenges confronting our nation call out for leadership,” said Senator Mitch McConnell on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, “…there’s no disagreement, none whatsoever, that our speaker today, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General David Petraeus, literally personifies leadership.”

Petraeus came to the University of Louisville to give a speech in Comstock Hall as part of the McConnell Center’s Distinguished Speakers Series. Past speakers have included Speaker of the House John Boehner, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The event was closed to the public. The audience included ROTC cadets, high school students and military members, including some of those serving in the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell.

Senator McConnell listed many achievements made by Petraeus, in addition to being the 20th Director of the CIA: a 37-year career in the U.S. Army, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, service as 10th commander of the U.S. Central Command, service as commanding general of the multi-national force in Iraq, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS, overseeing development of a new counterinsurgency field manual for the Army that was implemented in the Middle East, service as commander of the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, four-time recipient of the Defense Distinguished service Medal, three-time recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal and recipient of the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, among others.

Petraeus’s speech was centered on the concept of leadership and how to be an effective leader.

There are four steps to being an effective leader, Petraeus told the audience: determine the big idea, communicate the big idea every way possible throughout the organization, oversee the implementation of the big ideas and capture lessons from the implementation in order to revise, refine and start again.

Petraeus used his experience as a commander in Iraq to draw a picture:

“We could not expect to kill or capture our way to victory in Iraq…We determined that the decisive terrain was the human terrain, and we poured our energy, manpower and resources into securing and serving it… You see, not all of the insurgents in Iraq were hard-core extremists,” he said. “By meeting with the more moderate elements of the insurgency, we were able to make the case that working with us in the new Iraq would help build a better Iraq and they would be involved.”

Petraeus steered clear of politics, stating more than once that he is a non-partisan entity. His leadership advice, he said, could be used by anyone in virtually any situation, regardless of political views or affiliation. He talked little of his work at the CIA, focusing mainly on his time in the Middle East, adding anecdotes from Fort Leavenworth and Fort Campbell. More than once did he make a joke about the University of Kentucky, ending his speech with, “Good luck, Godspeed and go Cardinals.”

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