Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Contribution to Never Again

2012 ASAP Participant

The United States Naval Academy sends more than 1,200 first year midshipmen (plebes) to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) each year as part of a professional development program called the Genocide Awareness Program. On September 18, I coordinated bringing more than 40 upper-class Naval Academy midshipmen to the USHMM to be trained in how to lead discussions and reflections for the plebes. The discussions we led focused on the importance of ethical leadership within the context of both the military and society. This activity was an overwhelming success, with excellent feedback from museum curators. Since then, each group is filled almost to capacity every time a session takes place.

What motivated me to coordinate this event with the gracious USHMM staff and the Naval Academy Character Development Office was the idea of Never Again. This call for change frequently echoes in my mind when I reflect on everything I learned during the 2012 American Service Academies Program – starting in DC at the USHMM, to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, and the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Poland. I was particularly compelled to contribute to this broader discussion after the August 2013 tragedies in Syria. As I read updates from citizens in terrible conditions and looked at horrific pictures of chemical weapon attacks, I thought, “What can I, a midshipman at the Naval Academy, do?”

At first I felt helpless, but that was a temporary reaction to an event with unknown and tangible reverberations. The tragedies in Syria seemed worlds away if I turned off my computer and avoided viral images. But I did not want to remove myself; I chose to take action by working as a liaison between the Naval Academy and the Holocaust Museum. My hope is to continue the dialogue of Never Again between my peers and scholars. We can continue to learn from history by creating dialogue and acquiring knowledge applicable to contemporary issues, working towards Never Again together and as individuals.