Retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina and Global Preparedness Authority, spoke to an audience of students, faculty and the public at East Carolina University’s Wright Auditorium Thursday evening.
ECU students from various majors and the ROTC met with Gen. Honoré for an informal session prior to his evening presentation.
Honoré, a decorated 37-year Army veteran known as the “Category 5 General” for his leadership in coordinating military relief efforts in post-hurricane New Orleans, discussed “Resilient Leadership” as the third guest in the 2017-18 season of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Voyages of Discovery Series. He shared his thoughts about how to be prepared for potential disasters, how to persevere and how to be leaders for others.
“We live in an ever-changing world,” said Honoré.
He said with the advent of social media, the role of first responders and the media has changed. People are self-reporting and using social media to coordinate efforts to help one another.
“Be prepared to be your own first responder,” he said. “The best person to save you is you.”
Honoré pointed out that it is best to be prepared before major crises arise; that every $1 spent in preparation saves $12 in recovery efforts. He suggested that people need to have three to five days’ supply of food and water on reserve, at least a half a tank of gas in their car so they can leave if needed, and backup copies of important documents and insurance policy numbers.
He asked the audience to think about the worst-case scenario and be prepared for it.
One of the major issues he said we have to worry about every day is the power grid.
“We put a man on the moon, but we haven’t created a transformer that a squirrel can’t trip,” he said, saying that these types of challenges lead to great opportunities.
“Resilient leadership is adapting to the changing world and coming up with solutions to meet those challenges,” he said.
Honoré said leaders are not perfect and that a leader’s role is to get everyone on board as part of a team, to unify people and convince them that they will benefit from the successes of the team.
“To be a resilient leader,” said Honoré “a person must do routine things well, be willing to sacrifice and embrace the impossible, and not be afraid to be criticized.”
Earlier in the day, Honoré attended an informal gathering with ECU students, who were able to ask him about his thoughts on terrorism and war and how his role as a leader has changed over the years.
“I’ve been blessed to have a second career,” said Honoré, who after retiring from the Army, returned home to Atlanta and began helping others fight pollution, think about sustaining resources, and promote leadership and resilience in addresing the challenges of the world.
He emphasized that every generation has a war and this generation’s war is the competition for resources.
“How do you embrace the concept of the great challenges of the future? How do you go about reconciling the difference between the haves and the have-nots?” asked Honoré.
He told the students that this generation has to embrace and solve current challenges and those of the future, including the issue of countries without running water and electricity, less pure drinking water, decreasing farmland, drought, coastal erosion, the fragility of the electrical grid and the task of ensuring that all children can read.
Honoré concluded by reminding students that they are tomorrow’s leaders.
“Challenges create an opportunity,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want you to understand this is your world. It will be what you make it, and this world still needs to be a happy place.”
Students who met with Gen. Honoré before his evening presentation were able to ask about his thoughts on terrorism, war, and his leadership roles.