Maxwell School's 90th anniversary brings Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff to SU campus

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke at the changing role of public service.

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey visited campus Friday morning and delivered a lecture to the several hundred people who crowded into the Melanie Gray CeremonialCourtroom in Dineen Hall.

“One of the principles to takeaway from today is that public service still matters,” Dempsey said, as part of his lecture focused on the ways in which public service is changing.

Photo: Katy Beals
“Find something that you’re passionate about and become a lifelong learner,” he said. “Prepare yourself in case history finds you and I believe that it will find many of you.”

The general’s visit was held in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Jim Steinberg, dean of the Maxwell School, referenced this in a short speech before introducing Dempsey.

“As we celebrate this anniversary, we are very much focused on moving forward and thinking about the contributions we can make to the future,” Steinberg said. “At the heart of that is our unique role as a school of citizenship. Our greatest responsibility is to help the next generation think of how to make the world of tomorrow better than the world of today.”

Vice Chancellor for Veterans and Military Affairs J. Michael Haynie also spoke before the lecture and chronicled Syracuse University’s history of “opening its doors to veterans.”

“Today marks another chapter in Syracuse University’s long narrative of engaging and partnering with our nation’s military,” Haynie said.

Dempsey began his lecture by talking about the issues related to being a public servant in the age of the Internet. Dempsey said that government officials are now making decisions of strategy and policy in a public way.

He went on to say that is a great time for young people to think about becoming civil servants.

“When else would you want to serve?” Dempsey said. “When everything is simple and not much hangs in the balance or do you want to serve when it really makes a damn difference? If you want to serve when it makes a difference, you’re in the right place.”

Dempsey briefly addressed several of the more complex situations that the U.S. is currently facing, including relations with China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as well as the looming conflict with the Islamic State.  

Dempsey said that the threats he finds most alarming are those that occur in the cyber domain.

“It’s becoming increasingly dangerous because someone with a laptop can now do more damage with bits and bytes then I can do with bullets,” he said.

The challenge in the cyber domain, Dempsey said, is that it also deals with issues of privacy and information sharing. He said that government must decide what its role in the defense of the cyber domain will be.

Dempsey ended his lecture by giving the students in the audience a list of traits that good leaders have: candor, balance, competence, approachability and a strong character.

After his lecture, he answered questions from the attendees about foreign policy and issues facing the United States military.

He concluded the event on a hopeful note.

“Find something that you’re passionate about and become a lifelong learner,” he said. “Prepare yourself in case history finds you and I believe that it will find many of you.”

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