J. Robert DuBois, author and former Navy SEAL, spoke to Barren County High School students Friday about conflict resolution.
It was the second time DuBois had been invited to speak to BCHS English and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students.
Those in Jaime McMillan’s Pre-AP III class read DuBois’ book, “Powerful Peace,” prior to his visit to their school.
McMillan wanted her students to read DuBois’ book because it’s not like other books that are about military missions.
“This is a book about conflict resolution, not necessarily the missions he has been on, but once his career was finished, how he looked back and reflected on all the different things that we can do just as ordinary global citizens to come together to make the world a better place to reduce conflict at home, which will eventually reduce conflict around the world,” she said.
McMillan wanted her students to have an opportunity to meet DuBois and hear him speak and interact with him as someone who has written about a global cause.
Emily Blair, a junior, said DuBois’ book was one of her favorite books she has read.
“It gave me an experience I had never had before, like I mean, I have so much respect for Navy SEALS now,” she said.
Phil Gearlds, a retired command sergeant major with the Kentucky National Guard’s 1/623rd and JROTC instructor, said he wanted his students to hear DuBois speak for a couple of reasons.
One reason is to offer an opportunity to hear someone talk about their military experience, which may help the students decide whether or not they want a career in the military, he said.
“The main reason is to invite a Navy SEAL in so they can hear his story,” Gearlds said.
Freddie Joe Wilkerson, also a retired command sergeant major with the Kentucky National Guard’s 1/623rd FA and JROTC instructor, said he wanted his students to hear someone talk about the things they are taught in the classroom.
“It brings into perspective the things that we teach and talk about in the classroom and he reinforces those things in actual situations, talking about service and what it means and that it never stops and people who are willing to do things beyond their imagination for others simply because they have a service oriented heart,” he said.
Wilkerson also wanted his students to hear about DuBois’ experiences.
“It’s just an opportunity for them to be exposed to real-world situations and to know our freedoms come at a high prices and it makes it more realistic when you hear a guy talk who has been there and done that,” he said.
Ryan Burns, a senior and a JROTC student, said the book doesn’t just tell DuBois’ story about his time in the military.
“If you actually pay attention while you read it, it teaches you how to make peaceful suggestions,” he said.
DuBois read excerpts from his book, which he said he wrote because, “I was so tired of traveling around the world and seeing conflict situations that were based on misunderstanding and ignorance.”
He has had people write to him saying they have used the examples he has given in his book about people who have applied his theories on rectifying conflict to their own personal lives. One woman was able to save her marriage after reading his book, while a man was able to reconcile with his father, he said.
“It is conflict prevention 101, but it is expansion … into relationships, organizations and study groups, trying to become the best they can be, so it is expanding into personal excellence as well,” he said.
If there was one thing he wanted the students to take away from his speech, it would be the realization they can always grow and be a better person.
“I think it was [Leonardo] da Vinci who said, ‘I don’t sculpt stone to make a shape of a person. I just take away all the stone that is not the thing that is already in there — this masterpiece that is in there,” DuBois said. “So, the Venus de Milo, David, they were already in the rock. He just had to get all the bits off. So, I would like for people to get to their true core [too].”
After his talk, DuBois knelt on the floor and took questions from the students, which he said were insightful.
Typically, students ask him questions about being a Navy SEAL and his training or ask for his advice on becoming a Navy SEAL, but one student, Burns, asked him how he could be a better person when working with people of other nationalities.
“That means something struck home. To me, that is a great victory, when I hear him asking that,” DuBois said. “From this point forward, he will never be as limited as he was before we talked and it’s not me. It’s the idea, the concepts.”
DuBois served 20 years in the military, 10 of which was as a Navy SEAL with experience in more than 30 nations. He retired from the military in 2006.
He chose to become a Navy SEAL, he said, “because I wanted to have my own greatness. I wanted to grow my own potential and be able to make a greater contribution, ultimately.”
He has been a public speaker for about two years.
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