Hayden receives Character and Leadership Award

General (Ret.) Michael V. Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, received the Air Force Academy’s 2016 Character and Leadership Award in the Academy’s Arnold Hall Theatre on January 24, 2017.

The retired four-star Air Force general was active in the intelligence community through the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict, the War on Terrorism, and the battle to contain cyber threats.

Hayden received the award and addressed an audience of more than 2,000 Academy cadets and visitors.

In honor of General Hayden receiving the Character and Leadership Award, the Anschutz Foundation of Denver, Colorado, presented a $100,000 donation to the Air Force Academy to support character and leadership development. The Anschutz donation was designated to support the Academy Assembly, the Cadet Exemplar Program, and the Peak Performance Center. The presentation (pictured at right) included Lt. General Michelle Johnson, Superintendent; Ted Harms, executive director of The Anschutz Foundation; Christian Anschutz; General (Ret.) Michael V. Hayden; and Major General (Ret.) Mark Volcheff.

Hayden explained to the future Air Force officers that the key to successful leadership is to be a servant of those they lead. “I found that my most successful, winning hand was enabling my folks, encouraging my folks, motivating my folks—enabling them to be all that God had put in them, giving them the freedom to operate and perform, within boundaries I would set, against rules I would determine, but giving them maximum freedom of action.”

Hayden also stressed that character development requires following a moral compass. He narrowed it down to a four-word admonition: “Do the right thing.”

Hayden concluded the session by impressing upon the cadets “the challenge you now have in front of you as you go forward toward an active duty career: To be worthy of the nation you defend. To be worthy of the troops you lead. And frankly, to be worthy of yourself and your inherent professionalism.”

General Hayden is currently a principal at the Chertoff Group, accessing security issues affecting technological intelligence and counterintelligence, global political and terrorist risk analysis, and the structure and strategy of the United States intelligence community.

He is also the author of the newly released book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror. In the book, Hayden gives sobering insights into the challenges that the

American intelligence community faces in an age of international terrorism and unprecedented technological advances.

“We all remember that Tuesday morning, crystal clear not a cloud in the sky along the East Coast. September 11, 2001, the end of the world as we knew it,” Hayden wrote.

Regrouping to meet post-9/11 security challenges pushed conventional thinking in the intelligence community to the edge in search of viable solutions that ensure national security, but also preserve liberty.

“Every nation is required to balance the needs of security with the needs of liberty,” Hayden wrote. “Thanks to James Madison and a bunch of his friends, we have planted our flag well on the side of liberty in that difficult question. But if a nation feels itself threatened, feels its children are at risk, it tends to move its banner closer to the requirements of security than those of liberty. That’s what all of us feared when we told our families that we would wake up Wednesday to a different America. You and I have a role here. You and I can and will preserve American liberty and we will do it by making America feel safe again.”

General Hayden is the fourth recipient of the Character and Leadership Award. The 2017 recipient of the award will be announced in conjunction with the National Character and Leadership Symposium, scheduled to be held at the Academy, February 23-24, 2017.


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