Speech for Founders Day Convocation – October 3, 2013

Brig. Gen. Terry Djuric, VWIL commandant

Seniors, faculty and staff, you all look marvelous!

Dr. Fox thank you for this tremendous opportunity to address the college.

Seniors, I’m so pleased to speak with you today.  This past month at Mary Baldwin has been full of special events recognizing the freshman class and enriching their first-year experience…with leadership gateways, candle lighting ceremony, induction parade, charter day, apple day.  No doubt many of you had a guiding hand in planning and executing those events.

Well today we shift the focus to you.  That’s right, it’s all about you, and I plan to make your lives easier by sharing my thoughts on the Power of Empowering.

Do you remember that sense of pride you felt this semester when you helped someone new to find their way on campus, or chairing your first meeting of the SGA or club, or the pride you felt helping your coach rebuild your athletic team, or helping the director retune the marching band, or the sense of pride in helping the VWIL corps train the new cadets … and new commandant.  If you’ve had a hand in helping our newest college members, myself included, then you’ll remember the invigorating energy you felt.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but you feel good helping others learn their way.  That’s the beginning of Empowering our Future locally and globally.

Here’s how true empowerment works … You demonstrate your enthusiasm in whatever task you’re handed.  Attitude is key to growing an empowered culture that motivates others.  Why do we want a positive, motivated, high energy workforce?  Because positive, motivated, energetic people achieve the high degrees of success.  Next we need to take time to teach and model how to do the task because while it may be easier to get the job done yourself it’s paramount to empowerment to train your replacement.  That may sound odd to you, you may say, “train my replacement, then what am I going to do,” but the most successful and evolving organizations rely on people that are trained to cover or fill in at a moment’s notice to ensure mission success.

After you teach and model, you need to watch and listen for feedback and answer questions, maybe even reteach and demonstrate.  Then you encourage your team members to come up with their own solutions when faced with obstacles.  What’s amazing to watch for is the high energy and positive attitude that will ignite if you resist the temptation to provide your own solution.  Let the team solve the problem.

The final step of empowerment is very important: recognize members for a job well done or for their participation.  People love to hear “good job” or receive a thank you note.  For example, military veterans love to hear from local citizens “thank you for your Service” it’s inspiring to know our citizens support the military because it hasn’t always been that way.  That recognition step of empowerment will inspire others to do their very best and help them achieve their goal, your goal, “our” goal.

We can all imagine what happens when you attempt to give “power” without Educating, Mentoring, Inspiring, eNergize, Guiding (EMpowerING).  If we put a sign out that says, “I’m in charge now,” but don’t invest the time and energy of truly empowering the team, then you’ll be running solo and never experience all that empowerment can offer.  We want people to feel they are personally contributing to the teams’ success, that their efforts are recognized, and their accomplishments are rewarded.  When we energize people to tackle challenges, we’re all rewarded by their commitment to increase quality and achieve high degrees of success.  That’s the real power of empowerment…and as competitive as our world is…we need to empower our future.

Given the challenges facing our world today, educated people are essential in creating a better world.  These are complex issues like diversity, governance, poverty, human rights, environment, economy … these issues are local and global. These issues affect everyone and by empowering people we will proactively address what seem to be impossible problems.    We need to be critical thinkers, change agents, lifelong learners, and empowered citizens.

Dr. Rufus Bailey, he understood this, he dedicated his life toward empowering young women with an education.  Rufus Bailey understood that knowledge empowers people to move forward stronger and wiser.  And Dr. Bailey even trained his replacement, he may not have had that exact vision.  But, Mary Baldwin was one of his students and Dr. Bailey and his faculty empowered her with an outstanding education.  Many years later, when Mary Baldwin assumed the leadership role of this school, she was so committed to this mission, not even the Civil War could stop her.  I love that today embraces the college’s rich history.

Seniors, faculty, staff … I am eager to work by your side as we build upon the foundation laid by the great women and men who came before us, like Mary Baldwin and Dr. Rufus Bailey.  And this Founders Day is an opportunity to take time and reflect on our college legacy and recognize that you are a collection of America’s best.  When I look out at the Seniors, I believe I see a future one-star general and future college president.

Thank you for your attention and good luck this year training your replacement.  Remember, you have the power to Empower Our Future.