Impressions of the 22nd Annual National Character and Leadership Symposium at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA)
By OCdt 26591 Rachel Anderson
The 2015 National Character and Leadership Symposium at USAFA was a loaded two days for RMC cadet representatives OCdts Sabastien Hoffmann-Monker and Rachel Anderson (faculty sponsor, LCol Soo Sutherland).
Arriving Wednesday night and departing early Saturday morning, we attended briefings and panels for the entirety of Thursday and Friday, being ushered between venues by some dashingly good-looking hosts (as reported by OCdt Anderson).
At first I was apprehensive about attending the 2015 National Character and Leadership Symposium at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Our schedules were jam-packed and the not-so-repressed selfish side of me couldn’t help being worried about spending over 24 hours in transit in order to attend more lectures over two days than most Arts students do in an average week at RMC. The fact remains, however, that these weren’t ordinary lectures, and this wasn’t an average week at the Academy. The NCLS gathered together, for the 22nd year in a row, some of the best speakers and leaders that the United States Armed Forces has to offer: from four-star Generals to enlisted members recognized as Outstanding Airmen of the Year; to university deans, entrepreneurs, and Under Secretaries from the White House. The calibre of the speakers and the content of their discourses were phenomenal. Despite having a completely full schedule, there were still talks which we missed. Highlights included a panel on leading and mentoring subordinates with different socio-cultural perspectives (which feels especially relevant in a country as diverse as Canada), and the presentation by Mr John Dau, of one the “lost boys of Sudan.” (Bios of main Speakers – Here)
The quality of the speakers and their discourse weren’t the only things making the NCLS conference special. The energy of the participants was also impressive. USAFA cadets hosted students from West Point, the United States Naval Academy, and several civilian and ROTC universities. Our hosts showed us their extravagant (albeit snowy) campus, introduced us to the culture of USAFA, beasted us at the gym – where the altitude of 7250ft was certainly felt (!), and introduced us to local delicacies, including the Pizookie – which is neither local, nor delicate, but is never-the-less 700 calories of delicious.
The themes of Character and Leadership sometimes get to feel like beating a dead horse when one is at a military college, learning how to be a leader. But this conference did more than deliver facts about ethical decision making and improving one’s communication style. We become pumped about our careers in the military. It got us excited to give back to a greater good. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at the higher altitude, but after attending NCLS, I’ve got a new energy to work with my cadet flight, and the drive to share my renewed excitement of being at RMC.
OCdts Hoffmann-Monker and I sincerely thank the RMC Foundation for funding our attendance. Their generosity in enabling this opportunity to interact with fellow armed services cadets and learn new leadership perspectives will be a memorable highlight of my years at RMC.