Marine dignitary stresses integrity to MMI cadets

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Rick Couch / News Editor

When General Carl E. Mundy Jr. came to speak to the cadets of Marion Military Institute Wednesday, it wasn’t hard for him to keep their attention.

After all, Mundy was not your ordinary speaker. During his 38-year military career Mundy held the post of Commandant and was the Marine Corp. representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As commandant, the Corps’ highest-ranking officer, he was responsible for providing military advice to 41st President George Bush and Secretary of Defense on military and security matters.

But Wednesday’s speech was not about Mundy’s storied military career. He was more focused on helping cadets reach their full potential. The cadets of MMI, Mundy said, would have a huge impact on the future of the United States.

“Whether you realize it or not, you are the future leaders,” Mundy said. “Not all of you are going to be president, but you are going to serve in places of responsibility where leadership counts. All of you are going to have a place in a leadership role.”

Leadership skills, Mundy said, would prove to be very important to each of them. Mundy said in order to be a leader, cadets must be able to influence, enable or inspire people to accomplish goals they might think impossible. He said the best way to do this was to be themselves.

“The most effective leaders I have ever known are those who are comfortable in their own skin,” Mundy said. “They are those who know themselves and are themselves.

Most of the better leaders I have known have been who they are and have used their own personalities to inspire those around them.”

There was a misconception, Mundy said, about what it takes to be a leader today. He said leaders do not have to be perfect. In fact, mistakes could only make them more effective.

“You don’t have to be perfect to be a leader,” Mundy said. “Some people think that if they don’t somehow come out on top of the pack every time they do something they are a failure. Indeed, I would tell you that it is okay to make mistakes. It is not the end of your prospective career. To make mistakes means you are learning.”

Staying loyal and humble are other important qualities of a true leader, Mundy said. He said it was important for people to work together and have an appreciation for the role of everyone involved.

“A leader is dedicated to the people he or she is responsible for leading,” Mundy said. “As an officer, I learned over a long career that most of the things I was credited with was a product of the efforts of an awful lot of people. They were the little people under me who did the work for which I got the credit.”

People do not carry burdens alone, Mundy added, nor do they accomplish great things.

The most important characteristic a leader can possess, Mundy said, is integrity.

Mundy said it was always important for people in leadership roles to remind themselves of the importance of maintaining one’s integrity.

“Our nation and institutions of all types have a need for ethical leaders,” Mundy said. “They need men and women of integrity. It wouldn’t be a bad idea when you get up to look in the mirror and say ‘integrity.’ That is what it’s all about.”

Mundy made a career of shaping leaders, one of which is present at MMI. School president Col. James H. Benson said he developed his leadership skills under Mundy’s guidance.

“I was privileged twice to serve under General Mundy,” Benson said. “Once in the Eastern Regional Branch and for the special operations Branch of the Marine Corp.”

Mundy, Benson said, represented everything a Marine and a citizen should be.

“I benefited from General Mundy’s example,” Benson said. “We in the Corp. hold General Mundy as the epitome of an officer and a gentleman.”