Medal of Honor Recipient Speaks to the GSB Veterans Club

On Thursday night, the Graduate School of Business Veterans Club hosted a memorable event. Scores of alumni, military personnel, ROTC cadets, and guests packed into the Faculty Club for the 2011 Military Service Appreciation Dinner. The highlight of the night was the keynote address given by Vietnam veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, and awardee of the GSB Veterans Club 2011 Service and Leadership Award, Paul “Bud” Bucha.

After some kind words and humorous stories told by some of his fellow West Point classmates, Bucha delivered a powerful discourse on leadership.

Bucha came up to the podium wearing his Medal of Honor, saying, “I have no illusions or delusions about why I’m here so I wear this.” Then, removing it from around his neck, he explained that since he did not know how those awardees “hanging on a wall in Washington” would feel about it, he also always removed it before he spoke. “Thank you for your applause for them,” he said solemnly.

Bucha, who graduated from the GSB in 1967, opened by talking about how much of what he learned in business school was not being applied by others in say, politics.  “We don’t expenditure, like I learned, we expend.  It’s just all gone…”  Wondering what would happen if the federal government acted like families or vice versa, he continued, “If you have a hundred thousand dollars and you buy a two hundred thousand dollar house, you’re bankrupt.”

He spoke about the value and necessity of an objective, discussing how at business school he learned the chief executive of a firm is responsible for setting a clear objective—one that is finite, measurable, and has a suggested course of action to obtain its goals.  He discussed the lack of this principle in the political arena.

Bucha said he always gives politicians the same advice when he’s asked for counsel:  “Have the courage to define the objective before you send these young men and women into harm’s way.”

He related how former Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz told him at one point, “It’s too difficult.”  Additionally, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, when asked whether the current US military policy had his three traits of a clear objective, said, “The answer to your question is no, no, and no.”

Bucha said the last president to define a clear objective was George Bush Senior.  “If you commit the young men and women, follow the example of George Bush the First.  He did so good we said, ‘Wow, that was easy; why didn’t you go into Baghdad?’”  Bucha said that Bush answered, “Because that was not the objective.”

He then listed the five elements of leadership. “The fundamental element of leadership is integrity,” he began. “If no one trusts, no one follows, and if they don’t follow, you’re not leading.”

After speaking on competence and confidence, he elaborated on the fourth trait: compassion. “Because every person we lead is a human being,” Bucha said, “Everyone in your company, your unit, is a person who has the same weaknesses and insecurities that you have, if you’ll admit it.  You’re scared to death and you pretend you’re not but you are.”

Bucha listed he fifth and final element of leadership as humility, saying that if we didn’t look at the livelihoods we’re responsible for and feel insignificant to the task we’re shouldering, something’s wrong.

In closing, Bucha urged everyone to look at all the blessings they’d been given and all they’d been asked to do, and ask themselves if they’d returned in full measure all that they’d been given. He asked if the day had been too long to go down to the local school board meeting, to a city council, or (worse) vote.

“Ask yourself, ‘Did I fulfill the contract?’ Because when you look in the mirror and know that you’ve failed to fulfill the contract, it will keep you awake at night for the rest of your life.”

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