Andy Rao staff writer
When the word “leadership” comes to mind, many think of important and powerful people, high ranking offices and influential institutions that make an impact on a global level.
On Tuesday night, however, K-State Students had the privilege to listen to retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore give a speech on leadership and preparedness in the 21st century and give insight to students on how to become leaders in their own right.
Honore served in the U.S. Army for over 37 years and was active in military operations such as Operation Desert Storm and multiple operations in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was also put in charge of the Hurricane Katrina clean up efforts in New Orleans in 2005.
Honore spoke of his experiences in military operations as well as the hurricane cleanup and described the challenges he faced as a leader.
“There were a lot of people who questioned our ability and competency as a nation when Katrina happened,” said Honore. “There were a lot of people in need and the job seemed impossible.”
Honore went on to say that his personal experiences taught him many life lessons that he holds onto to this day.
“There have been three lessons that I learned as a leader,” said Honore. “Do the routine things well, don’t be afraid to take on the seemingly impossible and don’t be afraid act even when you are being criticized.
In addition to recounting his personal story, Honore urged students to stand up and tackle some of the world’s problems.
According to Honore, the next generation, including students in the audience, is the future, and it is up to them to find solutions to the numerous issues that people around the world face.
He spoke of the concepts of Main Street and Wall Street, and even added his own “Railroad Street” to describe the poor, elderly and disabled. He said that “Railroad Street” is crying out for the help of the next generation.
Honore also spoke at length about worldwide concerns including lack of power and clean water, and how some of these issues devastated people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
He urged students to imagine what it would have been like to have a portable emergency power source for the thousands without electricity during Katrina, or for those around the world that do not have clean water to drink.
“We have so many issues in the world today,” said Honore. “People around the world do not have power, water and food; this is why you’re here. You are the ones that can change lives, not just in America, but in places like Japan and Pakistan where hundreds of thousands were lost in recent earthquakes.”
Honore challenged students to keep these issues in mind and also to consider the sacrifices that America’s founders made in order to give future generations freedom.
“When many of our forefathers gave up their lives in order to give us freedom, it is our responsibility to honor their sacrifice, and to continue that tradition for generations yet to come,” said Honore.
“To live free is a privilege, but to die free is a responsibility,” he added.
Audrey Trowbridge, sophomore in accounting, echoed the general’s sentiment.
“It’s really important that we, as college students, grasp the fact that we are so close to being in the real world,” said Trowbridge. “So far we’ve relied on people older than us to make decisions for us, but soon we’re going to have to be the decision makers.”
Trowbridge is planning on adding a Leadership Studies minor.
“Being prepared for the leadership roles that we are going to have to fill is essential,” said Trowbridge. “Why wait? Let’s get started now.”
As Honore wrapped up his speech on leadership, he reiterated the fact that the younger generation and the students of today are the leaders that will soon be in position to make decisions that could create a global impact.
He reminded students to be self-reliant and to take matters into their own hands when the going gets tough.
“Our ancestors dealt with much tougher issues than we have to deal with,” said Honore. “Respect that, and remember that, because it is your mission as a generation to solve today’s problems.”
“Leave America free for the next generation, just as you were given that privilege by those before you,” he said.