Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey addressed a packed house full of glimmering belt buckles and shined shoes in the dimly lighted Gulf Coast auditorium on Tuesday.
Approximately 300 Collier County Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) students, along with a select group of Gulf Coast social studies students, listened to the four-star general’s presentation.
“I think the most amazing thing, for me, is how incredibly brilliant the man is,” said Nick Concilla, the Battalion Commander of the Gulf Coast JROTC program. “It’s really inspiring, honestly. It makes me want to do the best I can for the next 20 or 30 years of my life to be where he is.”
The Naples Council of World Affairs invited McCaffrey, who received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart and Silver Star multiple times during his 32 years in the military, to speak at Gulf Coast.
Barron Collier, Golden Gate, Immokalee, Lely, Naples and Palmetto Ridge High School junior and senior JROTC students were also in attendance.
McCaffrey’s speech focused on effective leadership. He explained how character, communicative ideas, efficient work and taking care of one’s self will make a person a better leader.
McCaffrey’s views on leadership extend outside of the military. He gave examples of how it applies in the business world.
“A lot of what you learn in life is watching how other people got things right,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s important for us to say (to the students) ‘here’s what I learned.’”
McCaffrey warned the audience a controversial part of his presentation was his view on perfection.
“I’ve met three nearly-perfect human beings in my life, none of whom are in this room,” McCaffrey said.
Don’t strive for perfection, McCaffrey warned. Instead, he advised people should strive to do good work.
McCaffrey began his speech by defining the different types of leadership and described ways to be an effective leader.
Tasha Baer, the Battalion Executive Officer of the Gulf Coast JROTC program, said she learned from McCaffrey’s advice on self-discipline and leadership.
Baer said this advice will help guide her through her journey in medical school, where she is headed next year.
Toward the end of his speech, McCaffrey advised students to stay away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
“All the pointers on leadership and how to develop myself personally and be the best I can possibly be − that’s huge for me,” Concilla, who will be enrolled in ROTC when he attends college next year, said. “It’s something I will definitely use the next four years of my life.”