On February 19th 2014, several other Tufts ALLIES members and I had the distinct opportunity to participate in a roundtable conversation with General Stanley McChrystal. Our topic of discussion with General McChrystal regarded public service, what service entails for students on the Tufts campus, and how we see our current engagements as trajectories for future service in our professional lives. I consider it a very exciting accomplishment that Tufts ALLIES was invited for being seen as an organization with positive impact on the Tufts campus. We briefly shared with General McChrystal some of the initiatives ALLIES has conducted at Tufts this academic year and explained how our civil-military relations experience translates to our career aspirations.
The discussion with General McChrystal also yielded interesting insight as to what he considers to be service in both military and civilian capacities. General McChrystal raised the thought-provoking point that military service usually starts at an earlier period in one’s life, whereas public service for civilians oftentimes begins much later after individuals have established themselves professionally and financially. Whereas General McChrystal is a well-known proponent of a national military draft (in his words: for service, development, and equalizing purposes), the meeting simultaneously served as an important reinforcement that civilians also share responsibilities in being active national and international citizens. Toward the latter half of our roundtable, discussion turned to the logistical and legal implications of General McChrystal’s envisioned ideas for either a national draft or national service program; certainly, there were no simple solutions to such complex questions. Ultimately, I found the meeting to be interesting and I was very honored to have been invited to participate as an ALLIES member. My greatest takeaway from the conversation was that civilians need to recognize how their contributions to society also constitute as service, and that the notion of service should be broadly defined in order to utilize each individual’s specific skills. I think this takeaway is important for all national ALLIES members as we consider our future goals and contemplate how we can make positive impacts via military and civilian sectors.
– Michelle Cerna, Tufts 2014