Photos by Eddie Mandhry, CNL Steering Committee member.
On August 7, 2013, members of the Carnegie New Leaders program (CNLs) participated in a field trip to the United States Military Academy at West Point (West Point). The goal of the trip was to engage in a discussion with Army Major Ian Fishback on a variety of ethical issues related to military service and war while touring the historic campus of this prestigious military academy.
CNLs explored the nation's oldest continuously occupied military post, viewing the monuments commemorating citizens and their service, while Major Fishback, a West Point graduate and current philosophy instructor, outlined what life is like for the roughly 1,200 cadets who enter the Academy each year. Major Fishback provided an insider's view of the rigorous requirements of the West Point curriculum and the distinctions between the average college student's activities and those of a cadet.
After touring the academy, the CNLs enjoyed the privilege of a lengthy discussion with Major Fishback over dinner. This conversation provided an invaluable opportunity to explore issues such as the ethical dilemmas of war, implications of new technology, and changes in America's military, as well as lessons of ethical leadership. Despite the serious nature of the discussion, the informal roundtable and Major Fishback's sincere demeanor allowed CNLs to openly ask questions and truly enjoy their discussion with the Major and one another.
After the trip, long-term CNL members provided the following feedback:
"[Major Fishback] was an exceptional host and I was impressed by his candor and willingness to answer most questions directly. …I definitely would not have enjoyed [the discussion] as much / appreciated some of the context without the visit of the campus grounds."
"I consider the West Point event…the most memorable and enjoyable in my 3 years with CNL. …The dinner was engaging and provided CNLs a unique opportunity to ask questions, and guide the discussion with a Major. I look forward to attending similar outings going forward."
As the CNL program coordinator, I believe our discussion highlighted how distanced the average civilian has become from those serving in the military and how creating channels of communication could better enable individuals to learn from one another. I hope this discussion is the beginning of such a dialogue for CNL that will help us all explore matters of ethics, war, statecraft, and the military from different perspectives.
CNL hopes to continue its tradition of unique and educational field trips, as this experience proved to be a valuable way to discuss ethical dilemmas and CNL themes in a unique setting and with a practitioner who faces these challenges.