McChrystal: Service Should Feel Like a Responsibility for Harvard Students

Joanie D. Timmins

General Stanley McChrystal, Mayor Annise Parker, and Spencer Kympton speak at the IOP Panel "Ask What You Can Do For America's Veterans" on Monday afternoon at the IOP.

Retired General Stanley A. McChrystal called upon Harvard students to serve their country on Monday night as part of a panel hosted by the Institute of Politics.

McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, was joined by Mayor Annise D. Parker of Houston, Texas, and Spencer T. Kympton, the President of The Mission Continues, an oganization committed to empowering veterans. Harvard Kennedy School student Daniel P. C. Feehan moderated the event, which was entitled “Ask What You Can Do For America’s Veterans”.

During the event’s introduction, University President Drew. G. Faust addressed the crowd through a pre-recorded video message. In the clip, Faust pledged to promote a culture supportive of military service on Harvard’s campus, praising the relationship between what she termed “two of the United States’ great institutions.”

In an interview with The Crimson after the event, McChrystal discussed the need for Harvard students to pursue public service.

“I think the military of the future has to represent all the parts of society, socially, religiously,” he said. “There have to be more Harvard grads serving. There have to be more Yale grads serving. There’s got to be a good mix.”

McChrystal continued by stressing the importance of building a culture of duty in which students want to served their country.

“You want people at Harvard to feel that this is a responsibility, [like] ‘Of course a percentage of us have to serve in the military.’”

Although he highlighted the need for Harvard students in the armed forces, McChrystal emphasized that service expands beyond the military. “I think if you refer to someone in the service, they ought to be someone who is serving the nation, maybe in uniform, or maybe in some other way.”

McChrystal also echoed the panelists’ discussion of the need for undergraduates, in particular, to join the armed forces. According to Feehan, the vast majority of veterans currently enrolled at Harvard University attend the graduate schools.

“When you come to a place like [Harvard College], the first thing you want to do is hide the fact that you’re a service member because you want to fit in,” McChrystal said. “I think what we’ve got to do is ask undergraduate life to expand its horizon a little bit. Don’t think of freshman as 17, 18, and 19. Think of freshman as 17 to 28.”

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at devpatel@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

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