“Perhaps we should begin to look today to Adm. McRaven before fate brings us to him in a panic.”
Bernie Quigley, conservative commentator
Soon after the news came out about Hillary Clinton’s use of private email for State Department communication, my sister, Ann, and I were discussing politics. We were both discouraged. I expressed the wish that someone unknown but wonderful would emerge and miraculously take the presidency by storm. “It will never happen,” she responded. I have thought of that exchange time and time again, and then the moment came when I knew who that miraculous person might be: Retired Admiral William H. McRaven.
In May of last year, I saw a video of his commencement address at the University of Texas. It was probably the best speech I have ever heard. Speaking as commander of United States Special Operations, he reviewed 10 life lessons he had learned through basic training to become a SEAL. In speaking of those lessons, he shared the values that have governed his life, and they were all I needed to hear to believe that he is the leader we need at this time in history.
It was McRaven who organized and executed the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Three months later, President Obama nominated him for the rank of admiral and commander of United States Special Operations Command. The position made him responsible for about 65,000 service people and a budget of $10.4 billion. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. A graduate of the University of Texas, he has a degree in journalism and a masters from the Naval Postgraduate School. At the beginning of this year, he moved into his new role as chancellor of the University of Texas System.
McRaven is the prototypical warrior, and there will be no question about whether he is man enough for the job of president. His speech also reveals that he is a great and creative leader. And as a highly decorated, former commander of special operations, he has comprehensive, strategic knowledge about the roiling conflict in the Middle East, which is the greatest danger this country faces. A commander in chief with military command experience could soon be a great advantage.
So has this idea occurred to anyone else? Some, including the conservative commentator Quigley quoted above, have speculated that Hillary Clinton was considering McRaven as her running mate. He has responded forcefully: “I am not running with Hillary.” In fact, he repeatedly asserts that he is apolitical. It’s complicated, but this could work, as I’ll explain below.
It seems now that Hillary Clinton can count on the Democratic nomination. If she should win the election and the makeup of Congress remains essentially unchanged, which is likely, she will be hounded and obstructed from the first day of her presidency to the last. Vital initiatives will languish, the nation will flounder, and our standing internationally will decline. This may not be fair and it may not be right, but America simply cannot afford this.
On the Republican side, there are close to 20 individuals who may be vying for the nomination. None of them have stellar qualifications, including real depth in international relations. The wrangling will reveal the faults of all and seed enmities that will increase political dysfunction.
The primaries will also be very boring for voters who are already jaded. Issues and ideology are continually recycling like well-worn cows’ cuds. Nobody has anything new, anything inspiring, anything hopeful to say. It’s mean, it’s predictable, and it’s depressing.
YouTube speeches by politicians reveal lukewarm public interest. A few thousand views is pretty standard. Now check out Admiral McRaven’s speech. When I first saw the video on the “Texas Exes” site last May, there were about 40,000 views. As I post this, the figure has risen to 2,929,945 views. Something extraordinary is afoot.
Of course we need to keep this in perspective. A friend shared a few-second video on a squeaking frog, and it had 11 million views. However, this is a substantive, nearly 20-minute speech, and it is really traveling. Maybe there is a great desire to hear what McRaven has to say.
And here are some big “What ifs?” What if the people know intuitively the kind of leadership we need and are not seeing it in the known and likely candidates? What if we need someone who doesn’t really want the job but would serve out of duty and on his own terms? Wouldn’t this be a change for the better? After all, anyone who wants to be president very badly will likely become compromised to win. And what if the idea that the person who raises the most money will win is wrong? Wouldn’t it be amazing if the grassroots decided whom we will elect?
If the circulation of the McRaven video begins to accelerate to the point that it alerts party operatives, things could get very interesting. However, there is a kicker. For this to work, McRaven must be nominated by the Republican Party. That will give him a cooperative Congress if he is elected, and if he has negotiated the terms of his candidacy to align with the values evident in his speech, he will even gain support from the Democrats who are becoming daily more ambivalent about Clinton.
And that would include me. I used to be a Republican but was alienated by the rightward swerve of the party. I would vote for this man. I would vote for him because what he stands for transcends ideology. I would vote for him because I think he is more capable than anyone else on the horizon of handling the most critical problems this country is facing. Internally, he will also set the bar very high for Americans in general, and that is just what this country needs now. No more slopping off.
In his commencement speech, McRaven quoted a saying of the University of Texas: “What starts here will change the world.” He illustrated the premise by saying that if each person changes the life of 10 people who do the same with 10 others and on and on, the effect ripples out to millions. He pointed out that the graduating class of the University of Texas could in five generations change the lives of 800 million people.
So when William H. McRaven made that statement, “What starts here changes the world,” he may have unknowingly been referring to his own speech. If I reach 10 people with the video who reach 10 more and on and on with this message, “This is the man I want for president,” then an amazing story may begin. It reminds us that the Internet now gives regular old citizens, not the wealthy, the powerful, and the entitled, the ability to determine who will be the next president of the United States. A real democracy after all, and just in time perhaps.
For the email you may want to send to friends, the web site of the video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70.