William H. McRaven, retired U.S. Admiral and UT System Chancellor, championed the role of the news media in a speech to Moody College of Communications students and faculty on Tuesday.
“We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven said. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”
McRaven, a UT journalism graduate of 1977, shared stories from his experience as a Navy SEAL trainee, as a commanding officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and as the man credited with organizing and overseeing the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, connecting each allegory to one common refrain: To be a great leader, one must effectively use communication in everything they do. “To be a good leader you have to be a good communicator,” McRaven said. “As a leader you have to communicate your intent every chance you get and if you fail to do that, you will pay the consequences.”
According to Moody College dean Jay Bernhardt, that message is the fundamental idea behind the communication and leadership major at the Moody College, which was established in 2016 as Moody’s first interdisciplinary major.
“As one of the most respected leaders in the country, when (McRaven) acknowledges the critical importance of communication for leadership, it really helps others understand just how important it is,” Bernhardt said.
McRaven’s speech was the first in a series of lectures organized to promote the new communication and leadership program and underscore its purpose.
Since January 2015, McCraven has served as Chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 academic and health institutions in the state of Texas including his alma mater, UT Austin. International relations majors Christopher Shafik and Jillian Pflederer were in attendance at the Belo Center for New Media, and said they admire McRaven’s humility in leadership and his commitment to truth.
“Honesty, transparency and truth are so critical to leadership,” Shafik said, adding that McRaven demonstrated courage Tuesday in defense of those values. In his concluding thoughts, McRaven himself emphasized that virtue.
“If you want to be a leader that communicates greatly, or if you want to be a communicator that leads, at the end of the day it is about courage,” McRaven said.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misspelled Christopher Shafik. The Texan regrets this error.