Navy Admiral and City Colleges Chancellor Share Leadership Experiences

Story Number: NNS111128-15Release Date: 11/28/2011 9:46:00 PM
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By Lt. Jeffrey S. Gray, Navy City Outreach, Chicago Public Affairs

CHICAGO (NNS) -- Junior ROTC cadets from Chicago had the opportunity to meet and learn leadership lessons from a Navy admiral and the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago during the sixth installment of the Hyman G. Rickover Leadership Series Nov. 23.

Rear Adm. Arthur J. Johnson, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Assessment Division, and Cheryl L. Hyman, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, partnered to communicate their personal stories and experiences of becoming leaders to approximately 175 cadets at the Union League Club of Chicago.

The Rickover Leadership Series was established in 2009 as a partnership between Chicago Public Schools Department of Junior ROTC and the Navy's Diversity Directorate to honor the late Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. Rickover was a graduate of Chicago's John Marshall High School in 1918 and is renowned as the "father of the nuclear Navy."

The purpose of the series is to enhance the education, awareness and appreciation of Chicago Public Schools Junior ROTC cadets in the social, political, and cultural dimensions of the nation and the world.

For educational leaders like Hyman, the opportunity to enhance the education students receive is essential.

"We can never learn how to be anything without learning from someone who has been that or has done that before. School and the classroom can teach you a lot, but it can't teach you the hardships a lot of leaders have had to struggle through to get where they are. Our students need to know that leaders like me have taken the same path, struggled with the same issues, difficulties, and had the same short-comings that they are currently dealing with."

The path to leadership for Hyman was difficult and complicated. When she was 16 years old and living in Chicago's Henry Horner Homes, a tough housing project on Chicago's West Side known for the intense level of gang activity, Hyman decided to drop out of high school.

"Sometimes young people look at leaders as some type of mythical people who have had a perfect life", said Hyman. "That's far from the truth. Students need to hear the real life stories and personal experiences beyond what leadership courses teach in the classroom."

Her decision to drop out was prompted by an intense need to leave her challenging home life and an aspiration to recreate herself into something other than her initial upbringing. Four college degrees later and an impressive professional reputation as a vice president at Illinois' Commonwealth Edison electric company, Hyman is the leader of one of the largest community college systems in America. She is the educational leader of seven colleges and approximately 65,000 students.

Hyman encouraged the cadets to embrace current and future obstacles. "You will face obstacles. Embrace and learn from those obstacles because they will help you build the character, strength, and perseverance you'll need to do whatever your future holds for you."

For Johnson, the path to leadership began when he was in elementary school in Texas. It was at that time when he was selected to become a member of the school safety patrol, a program that taught students traffic safety, educated younger students about traffic safety, and they were expected to become role models for younger students and their peers. From that early taste of responsibility Johnson went on to get involved with scouting, sports, choir, and ultimately Air Force Junior ROTC in high school while he and his parents lived in Wiesbaden, Germany.

"You're laying the foundation for your leadership development right now," said Johnson. "You don't have to wait until you finish college. You don't have to wait until you get a demanding job. You don't have to wait until you join the military to be working on your leadership skills."

As a former Junior ROTC cadet, Johnson immediately connected with the group of students. During his discussion Johnson provided personal examples of leadership when he was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a junior officer, and flight instructor. Using these examples Johnson emphasized the importance of mentors and role modeling.

More importantly, Johnson encouraged cadets to adopt six leadership principles: strive to be courageous and do the right thing despite the consequences; when faced with two opposing courses of action they should choose the right course of action over the person offering a specific course of action; be selfless and serve others; be innovative and creative, always have a plan B and C; manage time wisely; and, always remember leadership is not a popularity contest.

"Adm. Johnson and Chancellor Hyman are great examples for our cadets to emulate," said Col. Kevin Kelley, Army Junior ROTC instructor at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. "By their personal testimony they demonstrated that despite personal challenges and obstacles you can dream big and reach your goals through perseverance."

Impressed by the reception and interaction with the cadets, both Hyman and Johnson expressed the importance of providing young people with direct access to leaders and to learn from those leader's personal stories and experiences.

"We all have shortcomings, but we can overcome them," said Hyman. "We all have the potential to lead. But whatever and whenever you decide to lead you must be passionate and believe in the purpose and mission of the team, group, or organization you will be leading."

"Opportunities like the Rickover Leadership Series are so important for today's youth," said Johnson. "There are a lot of challenges and distractions for our youth. For these young people to take time out of their day to learn some tips, tools, and techniques that will help them become future leaders is a great thing for them as an individual, but more importantly it's a great thing for their city, state, and our nation. It was an honor for me to make a contribution toward their development as future leaders."

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