By Tim Hegedus, ’17
“There is no greater privilege in life than serving one’s country.”
General David Petraeus, Stanford University, March 14, 2014.
On March 14, SIG co-hosted an event with the Stanford Speakers Bureau (SSB), featuring former CIA Director and four-star general David Petraeus.
In a panel moderated by Colonel Joseph Felter of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Petraeus engaged students on topics ranging from the future of the American military to his thoughts on specific military strategies, such as the counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, which was used in the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus also discussed his work as the head of the newly founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Global Institute and the field of technological innovation in which the institute engages.
The event itself was very well attended, with SIG running out of tickets within a few days of the event’s announcement. CEMEX Auditorium was filled to capacity.
Following the talk, General Petraeus met with a group of veterans, cadets, and SIG and SSB students. Petraeus took the time to speak with each veteran and cadet individually, and advised the group on military careers and public service in general.
The event sparked widespread conversation on campus regarding Petraeus’s legacy and military strategy. Among the 700 people who attended were a group of protesters who expressed their views on Petraeus’s legacy and American military policies, such as the counterinsurgency strategy, that were in place when he served as head of the United States Armed Forces. In addition to the protests outside of the event, a protester briefly interrupted the moderated discussion midway through.
Petraeus addressed the protesters during the discussion, saying, “I am proud that I was able to fight for the right for others to be able to express their beliefs, whatever they may be.”
The high attendance of the event, the protests before and during the discussion, and the conversations that continued long after the event had finished, underscore just how powerful Petraeus’s talk was in promoting civic knowledge and engagement, regardless of whether students and community members were in support of the speaker.
Overall, the event was perceived as a tremendous success for SIG, SSB, and the Special Events Committee. Petraeus’s talk facilitated a conversation on military strategy, his legacy, and public service as a career choice, and it brought attention to civic engagement and public service more broadly throughout campus.