One of America's best-known heroes, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, instructed Rio Grande Valley business and civic leaders on how to administer "Leadership in Difficult Times" during a visit Monday, Nov. 5 to The University of Texas-Pan American.
Schwarzkopf, whose military career has spanned nearly a half-century, spoke as part of the UTPA Foundation's Outstanding Leadership Series. All proceeds from the event will be used for student scholarships.
In his 40-minute presentation at the UTPA Event Center, Schwarzkopf said the two most important rules for being a leader in the 21st century are "Rule 13" - when placed in command, take charge - and "Rule 14" - do what is right. This is especially true following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"You must stand behind your country," said Schwarzkopf, former Commander in Chief, United States Central Command, and Commander of Operations of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"Don't ever forget what happened Sept. 11, and most of all, don't ever forget Rule 13 and Rule 14."
For more than 40 years, Schwarzkopf said he has sought the perfect definition of leadership. It does not exist, but there are secrets to being an effective leader.
"I don't think the circumstances of one's birth have anything to do at all with the ability to lead," said Schwarzkopf, adding all the attendees were leaders in the community, business, school, church or home.
"I don't believe in the theory of born leadership. Most great leaders were ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and were able to rise to the challenge. ... You are a leader if you perceive yourself as a leader."
Leadership requires confidence, and the single most important ingredient is character. It is not management and the oversight of things, Schwarzkopf said, but guiding people, even if it means not being popular.
"Leaders lead people," said Schwarzkopf, adding the real rewards of leadership come from leadership itself. "The challenge of leadership is to inspire people to willingly do that which they ordinarily would not do. ... I've known a lot of leaders who were not loved, but I've never met a leader who was not respected."
The presentation was followed by dinner and a 20-minute question-and-answer session. Schwarzkopf addressed several topics and issues, including his most difficult decision as general and personal response to the terrorist attacks.
One of the most difficult decisions Schwarzkopf admitted he ever made was to commit to war. The lives of hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women are at stake, and all one can do as commander is wait for the results to come in.
Terrorism, meanwhile, is a continual battle that will take months, even years, to resolve. He also alluded to the media's current push at getting a definitive answer on when the United States will find Osama bin Laden and eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"We are being very successful so far in our efforts, and we will continue to be successful," Schwarzkopf said. "We will get bin Laden. What we need right now is your continued support. We will not fail. We will prevail."
The prestigious event included musical performances by the Nikki Rowe Show Choir Razz-Ma-Tazz, the Marine Military Academy Marching Band and the UTPA Trio. Boy Scouts of America Troop No. 583 served as Color Guard.
"I consider it a privilege to welcome such a distinguished group of community and business leaders to this, our inaugural speaker in the UTPA Outstanding Leadership Series," said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez. "It is wonderful to have General Schwarzkopf, and his message is even more meaningful as the war has now reached our shores."
The Outstanding Leadership Series is an effort on the part of the UTPA Foundation to bring national and international leaders to South Texas. The Foundation was chartered in 1982 to raise, manage and invest funds for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to benefit the University.
"What a distinct pleasure it is to have such a distinguished guest in our community and in this great Rio Grande Valley as General Schwarzkopf," said Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa.
"I'd also like to express the great appreciation of this community, and certainly many students will be benefactors of everyone being present tonight. Thanks to the UTPA Foundation and the many sponsors that make sure the tradition of leadership and the tradition of support for education remains in this community and the Rio Grande Valley."