Iraqi war veteran Eric Greitens’ lecture inspires students to give back through public service

| Staff Reporter

Kim Jones | Student Life

Eric Greitens, PhD, chief executive officer of The Mission Continues, addressed the importance of public service in his lecture, “Inspiring Leadership in Challenging Times” in Brown Hall on Tuesday. It was sponsored by the Assembly Series and the Gephardt Institute for Public Service Service.

Social entrepreneur Eric Greitens inspired students to pursue public service through his lecture, “Inspiring Leadership in Challenging Times” on Tuesday, March 30.

Greitens is more than a “social entrepreneur,” however—he is an Angier B. Duke Scholar, a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, a U.S. Navy SEAL officer and the award-winning author of “Strength and Compassion” as well as a White House Fellow.

During his lecture, Greitens mostly focused on how his experiences serving as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer have helped him develop his philosophy on leadership and service.

After Greitens returned from Iraq and visited with wounded Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital, he noticed the need to help disabled veterans who wanted to continue serving the public and express their undying patriotism and loyalty to the country.

Unfortunately, connecting the wounded and disabled veterans to public service is difficult because of the physical and psychological struggles that they cope with.

“The harsh reality of the situation for a lot of the men and women that I was visiting was that they were not going back to their military units right away,” Greitens noted. “The question is: How do they maintain hope?”

To help wounded and disabled veterans regain a sense of purpose, Greitens used his combat pay to found The Mission Continues in 2007. Through this nonprofit organization, he provides wounded veterans with fellowships to use their strengths and serve in their local communities.

Greitens believes that wounded veterans have a tremendous amount to give if they are provided with proper venues.

“[Disabled veterans] needed to know that when they came home, we did not see them as problems, but as assets,” Greitens said. “They wanted to hear that we recognize their strength and want to help them find a way back to serve.”

When observing the veterans’ continued devotion to service, Greitens gained new insight on what courage means, in addition to its common connotation of bravery.

More specifically, he learned that courage is also about perseverance—about waking up day after day and doing the hard things that need to be done. Greitens described courage as a proper balance between bravery and perseverance.

By sharing his experiences, Greitens hopes to inspire the young to challenge themselves and think about how they can serve society.

“What I ask all of us to do is to look at our courage, see where it is uneven and ask ourselves what hard things we need to do to become better public servants,” Greitens advised.

Overall, Greitens served as an inspirational role model for the attendees.

“When we think of public service, you have to think of someone like Eric Greitens,” said Robin Hattori, director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, who arranged the lecture. “He really does epitomize the idea that you always have something to give.”

Greitens’ lecture inspired students to evaluate their personal conduct.

“What I find most inspiring about [Greitens] was how he seemed to never be satisfied with where he is,” freshman Francis Wu said. “[Greitens] makes me wonder how much more I could be doing.”

Not only did several students find the lecture inspiring, they also pointed out that The Mission Continues reinforced some principles that they aspire to abide by.

“I love his idea of supporting veterans that are injured and giving them a reason to still continue in life and not give up,” said Brett Simons, a student from Maryville University in St. Louis who participates in Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). “This is what we are about: not giving up, never quit.”

Just after Greitens encouraged students to pursue public service, the night ended with a hands-on opportunity for students to translate their ambition into reality. After the lecture, students packaged non-perishable food items and miscellaneous products to send to soldiers in Iraq.

The Gephardt Institute and the Assembly Series Program made the lecture possible. The Washington University Military Care Package Group sponsored the service project.