Retired chief of naval operations speaks at DINFOS lecture series
October 4, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Oct. 4, 2012) -- Students and faculty at the Defense Information School gained some advice on leadership from a Navy officer who served as a leader to more than 300,000 Sailors.
Retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark, the 27th chief of U.S. naval operations, spoke Sept. 25 as part of the inaugural DINFOS Commandant's Lecture Series. During his hourlong presentation, Clark discussed leadership and the importance of public affairs professionals for commands.
Col. Jeremy M. Martin, commandant of DINFOS, said the goal of the lecture program is to expose students to the "influential leaders that understand global information environment and who have served at the highest echelons of our government.
"We have just that person today in Admiral Vern Clark," Martin said at the event.
Clark served as chief of naval operations from July 2000 until his retirement in July 2005. His five-year tenure is the second longest of any chief of naval operations.
Clark, a professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., teaches at the Robertson School of Government and the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship.
"I sure appreciate the opportunity to be here today," he said. "I especially love having the opportunity to rub elbows with the sons and daughters of America again. That was indeed the highest honor to me. ... I never turned down an invitation to go spend time with the public affairs community when I was chief or before."
Clark began his presentation by talking about leadership, drawing on quotes from Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, who died in 1992, and President Dwight Eisenhower. Clark noted several leadership philosophies and theories of authors and said everybody should be reading one leadership book a month.
"Leaders are not born, leaders have to be made," he said. "You either accept that or you reject it. But if you're going to be successful, then I would suggest this is key for us to come to grips with."
Strong leadership skills are important qualities for public affairs officers, Clark said, because they will be leading from the middle, trying to promote change from a difficult position -- reporting and advising their superiors.
"I'm sharing this with you because when go out for your first assignment as a public affairs officer, some of you are going to find an environment when you need to figure out how to lead some change," he said. "Usually that happens because the commander doesn't understand the importance of the whole public affairs concept."
Recalling several examples from his career, Clark said public affairs officers were helpful tools since they advised him on how things he said would be heard by the public.
"There aren't any greatly successful commands that don't have great communication pieces," Clark said to the service members. "They're waiting for you out there. Go out there and hit it out of the park. I don't know how many of those commanders are going to know how badly they need you. ... I'll tell you what, our nation needs you to be incredibly successful."
At the end of his presentation, Clark answered several questions on topics ranging from his interaction with public affairs and his thoughts on current events.
Ensign Frederick Middlebrook, who is in the public affairs qualification course, said he found the lecture informative and useful, taking particular note to be a strong leader and continue to educate himself.
"I think that was very key," he said, "because we do constantly gather more information to better ourselves as leaders, but also as advisors to people who will be senior to us."