HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Sgt. Maj. Finis Dodson told students at the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering on Feb. 23 that today’s youth are the future of the nation.
Dodson began his remarks with a special tribute to the nation’s teachers.
“The future of our nation starts somewhere. It starts with one field…it starts with one group; our educators,” Dodson said. “The one field that is most unappreciated, underpaid and undervalued. No one really thinks about what they do to prepare you for life.”
Dodson challenged the students to never forget the educators who helped them along the way.
“They gave you the foundation to be where you are and be where you can be,” Dodson said.
He also talked about the vital role the educational system plays in preparing youth for their future roles and their importance to the nation’s future.
“We must maintain our educational excellence to maintain our position in the world. You are the future of our nation,” he said. “In order for us to be competitive with our peers…we have to be able to compete, to maintain our edge. And the way we maintain our edge is (our) youth.”
Dodson used an analogy to focus the students’ attention upon his main message for the day.
“To control a horse, you use the reins. You use them to hold the horse back. The way you make a horse go faster is to let the reins go. The reins are your brain. I want your mind, your brain to just go. I want your mind to think of things outside the box.
“I don’t want you to think about what I’m thinking about. I want your brain to think about things I haven’t even thought about. I want to you to go…how about this way? …have you tried this? …that way is okay, but why don’t we put this spin on it?” Dodson said. “I need you to let the reins go. We need your ingenuity; we need your energy. We need all those things so we can be competitive with China and Russia, so we can maintain the land of the free…the best country out there.”
Dodson said he loved talking with the nation’s youth because they are the future.
“You need to prepare to chart your own path in life. I don’t care what mommy and daddy did, I don’t care where you came from. I don’t care if you are from the poorest of the poor; I don’t care if you’re from the richest of the rich,” Dodson said. “You are our future and we are depending on you.”
Life brings struggles, Dodson told the students. He said his dad always told him that while he would fall, the test is would he get back up.
“Scars are character builders. If you can get back up and dust yourself off and acknowledge that you made a mistake, you can learn from it,” Dodson said. “You can be like me, you can talk about your scar tissue and tell you the story behind it.”
Dodson challenged the students to show the world what they are made of.
“We are counting on you to replace us,” Dodson said. “Show me what you’re made of. Show me you got my back.”
Dodson said that service does not always mean military service.
“We have the SMART program. You can go to college; we’ll give you an internship that pays you $2,000 a month, giving you a real-world job, working real-world problems while you’re in college,” Dodson said. “Or you can choose to remain a civilian. I just want you to make sure our country stays where we are…the land of the free. That can only happen if you do productive things to make sure we survive.”
The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering is the nation’s only high school focused on the integration of cyber technology and engineering into all academic disciplines. ASCTE is a public, residential magnet high school serving students throughout the state of Alabama. Tuition and housing are free.