Monday is Memorial Day and is the day wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered. The holiday is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May. The first recorded Memorial was held on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina to commemorate the soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
I thought about Memorial Day when I toured the US Naval Academy this week. This is also Commissioning Week for graduating seniors who will become officers in the Navy or Marine Corps this coming Saturday. One of the buildings that I toured was the US Naval Academy Museum. The mission of the Naval Academy Museum is to collect, preserve, and exhibit the artifacts and art that are the physical heritage of the US Navy and the Naval Academy in order to instill in Midshipmen a knowledge of the history and heritage of the Navy and the Naval Academy and to supplement the instruction of all academic departments of the Academy, as well as to demonstrate to the public the contributions of Academy graduates to the military services and to the Nation. And to motivate in young people a desire to become part of the Brigade of Midshipmen and to begin a career of service to their Nation.
The Museum is many ways a teaching museum. One of the courses taught directly in classrooms in the building is on leadership. Of course, the curriculum teaches the overriding theme of the Naval Academy, which is Duty Honor Loyalty, but it goes beyond this to a moral and ethical dimension to its leadership classes. The firm belief at the Academy is that leadership can be taught through the modeling from prior leaders.
I thought about this concept of modeling leadership in the context of compliance. One area that is not focused on too often in company-sponsored training is that of leadership. Moreover, while many business leaders receive substantial training on the technical aspects of doing business, they rarely receive training or are even assessed on leadership attributes to do business ethically and in compliance with laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act. It occurred to me that if the US Naval Academy can teach leadership, this is something that US businesses could also teach.
While you are pondering this question, I hope that you might think about all the men and women who have gave their lives so that we might live in freedom and are honored this and every Memorial Day. While in Annapolis I had another reminder of their sacrifice. While having some lunch at Chick and Ruth’s, the owner came over the PA and asked us all to stand and say The Pledge of Allegiance. He said the reason that he made the request was “because we could stand and say it.” I realized that we are honoring those people who made ultimate sacrifice.
Happy Memorial Day to all but I would ask that you take a moment to thank all those we honor for this holiday and to honor the men and women of the US Naval Academy who will be commissioned this weekend and will serve us all.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2014