EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published in The Gazette April 7, 2002.
A business suit has replaced the desert fatigues, but the expansive face and resonant voice of retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf inspired the same comfort and confidence during his speech here last night as it did during his frequent press briefings during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.
About 1,100 people paid between $45 and $100 to hear the retired general discuss “leadership in difficult times” at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the University of Northern Iowa campus.
The event was sponsored by the UNI Alumni Association. Schwarzkopf gave his listeners the following two rules, which he called the secrets of 21st century leadership.
“When placed in command, take charge” and “do what’s right.” Good leaders, he said, have a bias for action.
When faced with a tough decision, he said, “don’t do what you think the chief of staff wants done or what you think will make you look good – do what’s right.”
It takes character, the most important ingredient in leadership, to discern what’s right, Schwarzkopf said.
“We all want to be led by someone who is special, someone we think is better than we are,” he said.
Grasping the U.S. flag next to him, Schwarzkopf said, to our enemies, this is a symbol of a godless, selfish nation. To others around the world it is a symbol of wealth and high technology, he said.
“They’re all wrong,” he said. “What this is, is you. America has always been the American people.”
The greatest challenge of military leadership, according to Schwarzkopf, is to persuade people to do things they really do not want to do.
Outside the auditorium, about 60 peace activists waved signs and handed out leaflets questioning the general’s character.
“We feel he is an unethical leader in his denial of gulf war syndrome,” said Andrew Moomaw, co-president of the UNI Amnesty International chapter. Moomaw, a senior from Newton, said gulf war syndrome has afflicted thousands of gulf war veterans and the military leadership has done little to help them.