Defense Secretary James Mattis made one young man overwhelmingly happy turning a bad incident into a life lesson.
After the Washington Post ‘mistakenly’ published the actual contact information for Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Instead of the situation being entirely unpleasant Mattis came across one (of hundreds) voicemail from a high school senior named Teddy Fischer that turned things right around. Mattis not only returned the boys call he also agreed to participate in a once in a lifetime interview for the young student.
Mattis was clearing out the avalanche of voicemails when he came across Teddy’s message. The retired four-star U.S. Marine Corps general not only called the student back, but he also granted him a tough-to-get interview. The live advice that Mattis gave the student should probably be required reading for high school students across the nation.
There was plenty of national defense talk, but when Teddy asked him if he had any advice for graduating seniors, Mattis provided this answer:
“I would just tell you that there’s all sorts of people that are going to give you advice and you should listen to the people you respect, but I think if you guide yourself by putting others first, by trying to serve others, whether it be in your family, in your school, in your church or synagogue or mosque or wherever you get your spiritual strength from, you can help your state, you can help your country, if you can help the larger community in the world, you won’t be lying on a psychiatrist’s couch when you’re 45-years-old wondering what you did with your life.
Go out of your way. Not everyone has to join the military, it’s not for everyone. For one thing it’s scary as all get out at times, but whether it be the Peace Corps or the Marine Corps, whether it be serving on your local school board when you’re still not even 30-years-old, by running for office and trying to get a good education for the kids in your community, just try to put others first and it will pay back in so many ways that you’d be a lot happier in life. So just look for ways to help others all the way along, Teddy, and you’ll never go far wrong if you’re always looking to do that. You won’t get all caught up in your own problems if you’re out helping others overcome theirs.
And you keep asking these kind of questions Teddy. You’re asking good, very good questions and just try to keep an open mind. There’ll be a lot of people who want to tell you what to think in this world. If you read a lot of history you’ll thank them for their help but you won’t be governed by what someone else has told you to think.”