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Four-star general visits USU

By Melanie Fenstermaker
On April 9, 2014

There is a growing gap between the military and civilian society, said Gen. Jim Mattis, a long-time U.S. Marine Corps member, former commander of United States Central Command and current Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

Mattis, known for his 41 years of service and deep love for his country and fellow Marines, came to USU on Tuesday and gave a speech to hundreds of USU students, professors and local veterans about topics relating to his involvement with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Mattis said it is important for citizens to be politically involved because the military is run through them.

“Who actually owns the military are the people you vote on in your districts,” Mattis said. “Our military is obedient to the elected commander in chief. It’s obedient to even putting its life on the line with a blank check payable to the American people.”

He said there is a growing divide between liberalism and patriotism in the U.S. and said veterans should take passing down patriotic traditions seriously. He said veterans should vote for the president at future elections.

“We have to hold the wolves at bay,” Mattis said. “You’re going to have to buy time for our country until it can get its political unity again.”

Briana Bowen, a political science major and member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society, agreed with Mattis that citizens should get involved in politics.

“It’s important to maintain that psychological and emotional connection between military families and military service and the rest of us, who have such an intimate relation and dependence on the military for security and protection of our freedoms,” Bowen said.

During a question-and-answer session following his speech, Mattis was asked which qualities he believed to be most important in a leader. He said the most important quality, more important than trust, respect and physical toughness, is affection.

“Some people can show that their passion for excellence hasn’t wiped out their compassion for human beings,” Mattis said.

Those in attendance enjoyed listening to the general.

“He’s the real deal,” said Jeannie Johnson, a professor in the political science department. “He’s a living legend in the United States Marine Corp. This is a huge, huge deal. Students need to know that there are some great people working for us and on behalf of our nation.”

Others were surprised how few students were in attendance.

“He’s one of the most powerful people we’ve had at Utah State,” said Nicole Tuttle, a political science major and president of Pi Sigma Alpha. “I wish there would have been more students there. You can get a different perspective of the military, no matter what you’re studying, even if you’re a math or engineering student.”

Mattis was invited to speak by Jeannie Johnson and was sponsored by Tony Peacock, head of the political science department, and The Center For the Study of American Constitutionalism.

– melmo12@gmail.com

Editor’s note: Briana Bowen is a columnist for The Utah Statesman.

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