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View of stained glass with the Georgetown University seal

VA Secretary Says Leaders Must Be Purposeful and Deliberate

January 29, 2016 – Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said successful leadership starts with being deliberate about developing and shaping your own purpose and values during his presentation in Georgetown’s historic Gaston Hall today to an audience that included the university’s student veterans.

“Making that purpose pervasive and making those values pervasive” leads to better lives for others, the VA head said as he shared his thoughts on leadership based off his 63 years of experience.

Refocus on Values

McDonald worked as chairman, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, before his appointment to lead over 300,000 VA employees and oversee its budget of more than $70 billion budget.

McDonald joined Veterans Affairs in 2014 after the organization came under scrutiny for elays in medical care at VA hospitals across the country. Since taking the helm he has refocused attention on the VA’s core values – ICARE, an acronym for Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence.

“Today’s world is filled with distractions that make it easy to react rather than engage in purposeful ways,” he said. “Because we’re always time-starved, we always wind up managing by exception. We wait for something to go wrong, … then, we try to correct it. What I try to do is see how I can catch people succeeding.”

Robert McDonald shakes hands with Chuck Hagel as he walks on stage in Gaston Hall‘Smart Enough or Big Enough’

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Executive in Residence at Georgetown, lauded McDonald’s leadership during the Friday address.

“No one is smart enough or big enough to run an institution,” said Hagel. “There are so many leaders within those institutions that help shape those institutions and build culture. Bob knows how to do that. … He’s accomplished an awful lot in his career in many areas.”

Ideals and Values

LeNaya Hezel, director of Georgetown’s Veterans Office, moderated a Q&A with McDonald and students after his address.

 “Today's event provided a great opportunity to see the investment Georgetown makes into the military community," Hezel said after the event. "I hope the presentation creates additional opportunities for many other discussions that will raise awareness of military members on campus and the great strengths they bring."

Georgetown, home to more than 550 students who are veterans or engaged in active duty, received the No. 1 college for veterans ranking from U.S. News and World Report in 2015.

 “As students, scholars and colleagues, [veterans] represent the ideals to which we aspire – a dedication to service, a commitment to each other and an ambition for living in accordance for our most deeply held values,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

Commitment to Research

Georgetown faculty members provide regular analysis of veterans’ policy issues based on their research expertise in discovering abnormalities in brain imaging in Gulf War Illness; pioneering work on PTSD, TBI, schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse, sleep disorders and the genetic basis of psychiatric conditions in veterans; numerous projects in prosthetic arm function; and mindfulness-based fitness studies.

 “As a university, we are committed to engaging the resources of our community to improve life for veterans at Georgetown and in the world beyond,” said DeGioia.