Retired Air Force general brings real life advice for college students

Published 5:03 pm Friday, March 8, 2019

LaGrange College was fortunate enough to see a bona fide American hero set foot on its campus Thursday morning, when retired four-star U.S. Air Force General and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Jumper came to speak to a group of students.

The event, orchestrated and organized in large part by Dr. John Tures, was a significant one for those students in attendance. Most had likely not heard of Jumper prior to the event, but the fact such a high-ranking former member of our country’s military was on hand to lend life advice and words of encouragement was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“He was involved in Operation Northern Watch — which was an operation to protect the Kurds in Iraq during the 1990s to prevent massacres — Operation Southern Watch — to protect the Shiites long before Operation Iraqi freedom,” said Tures of Jumper. “He was also the head of Operation Allied Freedom. He was the Air Force chief of staff on 9/11 and served as that for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and if you know how the Air Force was able to accomplish its tasks, I think that record speaks for itself.”

Jumper has been in the driver’s seat or ridden shotgun on the most historically significant events in our nation’s military history over the past 25 years. Him, and the men of his ilk, have shaped our country. When relaying his thoughts on life, and his ‘rules’ for living, however, Jumper’s comments seemed remarkably simple and attainable. Those rules were as follows.

1. This is not a ‘practice life.’ This life is the only one anyone has access to, and mistakes made now can live with us for the rest of our lives. 

2. Leadership is a contact sport, and true success depends on your ability to develop into a good leader. Leadership via Twitter and Facebook does not exist, but rather remains in the realm of face-to-face interactions.

3. Know what is truly meaningful to you. When we are in a position to look back on life, those meaningful experiences will be centered around events where we put someone else’s needs ahead of our own.

Jumper did not lay out complex, imperceptible plans for those LaGrange College students to follow in order to be successful. Instead, he focused on the basics. Recognize that mistakes made now will impact your future, learn to lead through face-to-face interactions and identify what is truly meaningful in life, then chase after it.

So often, the future can seem synonymous with a murky, black pit of anxiety, particularly for college students. The future seems so uncertain, and taking a single step in any direction can feel daunting. We can easily get overwhelmed with what comes next, as opposed to focusing on what we can control.

Jumper pinpointed some of these life lessons for those LaGrange College students. The decorated, grizzled and wise career military man has seen enough in his life to speak with authority on what matters. He chose to focus on the simple, controllable elements of life, not the myriad of factors we cannot.

Tures and LaGrange College deserve a hearty pat on the back for delivering such a keynote speaker for their students to hear. We are sure it is not a presentation they will soon forget.