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The Courage to Change the World

Too often, Memorial Day comes and goes without stopping to appreciate the source of sacrifice that has sustained our freedom at home and makes the defense of liberty around the globe possible.

Theodore Roosevelt was likely thinking about this quality when he observed, “For those that will fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered shall never know.” Of course Roosevelt was acknowledging that being in combat situations of any form leads to a deeper appreciation of life. But he was also referring to the fact that those who have not faced an enemy or a challenge don’t understand the importance of readiness in living a full life off the battlefield or outside the arena.

Readiness is the key to courage. It’s more than being in great shape. Navy Seals are likely some of the most courageous people you’ll ever have the honor to meet. But physical strength is not enough.

That’s what Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command told the graduates of The University of Texas at Austin this month:

Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5- foot five.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish America, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west.

They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews. The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feetprior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Please read and watch the remainder of Admiral McRraven’s remarkable speech. It’s an appropriate and inspirational way to appreciate the service of those who died for our freedom.