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Message of Today's Military Reinforcing Integrity, Honor in Officers

Aired May 17, 2004 - 13:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: More than four dozen National Park Rangers in Washington state are trying to rescue two stranded climbers on mount Ranier. Bad weather on the mountain forced a rescue helicopter to turn back this morning. Rangers working on the ground are expected to reach the stranded climbers some time in the next hour or two.
New political uncertainty in India is creating something like financial panic. Investors saw the worst one-day plunge ever with stocks losing $45 billion in value. That was set off when two key parties refused to back an incoming government led by Sonia Gandhi. She's expected to be sworn in as prime minister Wednesday.

The prison abuse scandal has put the military in the spotlight. We can't expect U.S. soldiers to be perfect, but we do expect them to be honorable and truthful. The Marion Military Institute, one of the nation's oldest private military schools, has been teaching honor and truth since 1942. This past weekend MMI latest class of cadets graduated. Now, they must prove their honor in a war unlike any other.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): It's one of the oldest private military schools in the nation. Cadets crying out this creed since 1842.

LT. GEN. ROBERT FOLEY, MARION MILITARY INSTITUTE: Honor and respect are two of the preeminent values that we want our cadets to learn and make them better citizens and better leaders in our armed forces.

PHILLIPS: Over the years, Marion Military Institute has produced more than 200 generals and admirals. Now, these young faces are the next generation preparing to serve, perhaps to fight in a war unlike any other before, the war on terror.

NICOLE WILLIAMSON, MMI GRADUATE: As a leader everyone has to go into it with an optimistic attitude. If you don't have a positive attitude, I think that could set you up for tremendous failure.

PHILLIPS: Tremendous failure is not the legacy here at MMI. This chapel was a hospital during the Civil War. It became a right of passage for cadets to etch their initials in its walls the night before graduation, all sharing a sense of pride that still prevails. BRANDON BERDMANN, MMI GRADUATE: We have to represent what it means to be a United States soldier. We have to be better and more honorable than any other country's soldiers. We all want to serve our country.

PHILLIPS: These cadets enrolled here just weeks before September 11, 2001. All of them watched the Twin Towers fall, that horrific day reinforcing their resolve.

That resolve starts in this simulation lab, combat by computer. Cadets learn how to fight by their finger tips, bleeding in the classroom instead of the battlefield.

CAPT. GEORGE KNEUPER, MARION MILITARY INSTITUTE: In here when they actually pull the trigger or throw that grenade, people go down.

PHILLIPS: From virtual reality to the reality of battle, these future warriors learn the Army's moral, ethics and what it really means to have boots on the ground.

KNEUPER: These guys have been training together for a few weeks now and everything else (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Small unit leadership and small unit tactics. And right now they'll execute the battle drill.

PHILLIPS: Battle drills that equal a battle cry. These cadets are now headed to Iraq and Afghanistan. And with each new diploma comes an old mission truth, honor and service at any cost.


PHILLIPS: Joining us to talk more about the school's mission and the role in the war on terrorism, the president of Marion Military Institute, retired Lieutenant General Robert Foley. General, good to see you.

FOLEY: Kyra, it's nice to be on your program. Thanks so much for doing this.

PHILLIPS: It's a pleasure.

Let's talk about those cadets. And I'm just curious, how did you prepare them in the last few years? And also, especially over the weekend taking a look at what's happening in Iraq, the security situation, sarin gas now coming forward.

How did you convince these men and women that they are going to do the right thing as they go overseas and come face to face with these terrorists?

FOLEY: Well, I see -- you can see the enthusiasm that all of them have for the training they're going through. And we have terrific officers and non-commissioned officers that are part of our ROTC program.

In fact, some of them returning from Iraq and we're getting the lessons learned from the war in Iraq and war in Afghanistan. And we take all of that and put it into our program.

But it's not just professional competence. We want to spend a lot of time on strength on character. And we have a special program where we bring cadets into small groups with staff and faculty members as facilitators because we want to talk about honorable living.

We want to talk about some of the tough issues that they're going to be facing as leaders. We want them to be sensitive and aware of some of these issues so when they get put into the situation, they'll be able to do the right thing.

PHILLIPS: Sir, let's talk about honorable living. In light of the pictures that we've seen come out of Abu Ghaith, how did you tell these young men and women, look, this is not how you are supposed to be. This is un-American, and it's not what I want to see you doing as a representation of this institute?

FOLEY: Well, first of all, they understand -- and we're going to be commissioning 60 cadets this year into the United States Army -- once they get their commission, they're going to be taking an oath. And the oath is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And for them, that's a far greater requirement. It's to support freedom, support and defend freedom, democracy and the American way of life. So, they know that they and their soldiers are going to be put on point for their nation.

And being put on point is something which General Shinseki, when he was chief of staff of the Army, brought in as a concept because he wanted everyone to realize that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are going to will be out there in the Balkans and in the Persian Gulf. And they're going to be making contact with adversaries, with non- combatants.

And they're also going to be responsible for the sons and daughters of America. That is a big responsibility. Caring for them every day. And it all gets back to what we have focused on as the Seven Army Values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

And it's not just that we can rattle those off, but we look behind each of those to see what is so important about being a soldier in today's battlefield -- honor and respect being the two preeminent values.

PHILLIPS: I know you are in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tell me why you think this war is justified?

FOLEY: Well you know, Kyra, I don't spend a lot of time talking to the cadets about a justified or not justified. I want them to know that we have a national command authority, elected officials, members of Congress who deal with national security requirements. They are the ones that develop national military strategy.

I want them to have trust and confidence that our military, our Department of Defense, State Department and all aspects of our administration and our government are able to look at those national security requirements and determine which ones they are.

What I want them to focus on is what they're going to do when they get to their first unit. What kind of leadership principals, what kind of professional competence, what kind of manuals they have to study to be competent because their soldiers are going to look at them and say, I want a leader that knows what they're doing. I also want one that is going to be fully capable of doing the right thing.

And I tell our soldiers -- or our cadets here that are going to be officers that, you know, doing the right thing is all about character. And I oversimplified a very -- a three-step process. The first one was -- is that you have to know you're being confronted with a moral, ethical dilemma. That means you have to study an awful lot about previous dilemmas. That's why we have these small group discussions. Then, pick out the right course of action, which is sometimes tough. But the third one, and the most difficult, is having the moral courage to do the right thing, because sometimes there are consequences, but we want them to focus on that.

PHILLIPS: Medal of Valor winner, retired Lieutenant General Robert Foley. I wanted to tell folks that. You definitely represent everything you teach at MMI.

Thank you, sir, for your time today.

FOLEY: Thank you.

PHILLIPS; Straight ahead, speeches, gladhanding and raising lots of money, but not taking any free advice from a competitor. What's new on the campaign trail?

A civil rights pioneer recounts her emotional experience breaking barriers at Southern University in the '60s, and now she's a part of us.

And to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. What do you have to break to make a $1,000 omelet? It's our treat, when LIVE FROM continues.


PHILLIPS: President Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry are in Topeka, Kansas today, addressing the state of education 50 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. A half century after the Supreme Court banned segregation in schools, Kerry says there's still a need for improvement.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As far as we have come, we still have not met the promise of Brown. We have not met promise of Brown when one-third of all African-American children living in poverty. We have not met the promise of Brown when only 50 percent of African-American men in New York City have a job. We have not met the promise of Brown when nearly 20 million black and Hispanic Americans don't have basic health insurance. And we certainly have not met the promise of Brown when in too many parts of our country our school systems are not separate and equal, but too many of them are separate and unequal.


PHILLIPS: Next stop for Senator Kerry is Portland, Oregon. He is scheduled to have a rally later today with his former challenger- turned-supporter Howard Dean.

Ralph Nader says he's getting the brush off from John Kerry. On CNN's "LATE EDITION" yesterday, Nader says that several attempts on his part to meet with Kerry have been ignored. Nader is running for president as an independent. Many Democrats are urging him to abandon his bid, arguing it could draw voters away from Kerry.

Teamsters president James Hoffa says one way Kerry could secure a win is by adding Dick Gephardt to the Democratic ticket. Hoffa says he's repeatedly urged Kerry to select the Missouri congressman and strong union supporter as his vice president.

Who do you think John Kerry will pick as his running mate? Log on to to weigh in. And by the way, today is the last day to vote. The results of our poll be announced tomorrow.

She faced racism as one of the first black woman integrating a Southern university. Personal story from the frontlines of desegregation as we honor the 50th anniversary of a landmark ruling. That's ahead.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's been 50 years since the highest court in the land ruled separate but equal unconstitutional. But that landmark ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education didn't change anything overnight. Years later, Charlayne Hunter-Gault braved riots when she and another student became the first to desegregate the University of Georgia. Today, Charlayne Hunter-Gault is CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief, and those memories of 1961 and before are vivid as ever.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The first elementary school I went to was in Covington, Georgia. We used to -- my neighbors and I used to walk about a mile and a half to get there. And when we got there, it was our school. At the same time, it was a little black school in a very segregated society. Nothing compared with what the white students had across town.

In 1954, my mother decided to join my father who was a military Chaplain in Alaska. And so in 1954, the year of the Supreme Court decision, it's sort of ironic in a way, I attended a white school.

I stepped into a classroom where I had to compete with white students who had traveled all over the world, being military children. They had attended some of the best schools. So in a way, that was a great preparation for what was to happen to me in January of 1961, when I entered the University of Georgia.

Of course, there was tension in the air. I had to live on campus as a female student. All of the anger and hostility and rage over our admission happened outside of my dormitory.

Then the university officials came and told us -- told me that I was being suspended for my, quote unquote, own safety. And up to that point, I had been relatively calm. My room was right on the first floor. All of the girls in the dormitory, the white girls, lived on the second floor. And they had been told to turn out their lights. So the only room in the whole dormitory with a light on was mine. So everybody knew where to throw the bricks.

So when the brick and the coca-cola bottle came through my window, I remember thinking to myself, oh, so this is how it is in the middle of a riot, because I was definitely in the middle of a riot. But I was still very calm until they came and told me that I was being suspended.

And at that point, I burst go into tears, not because I was afraid, but because I couldn't think of any way to stop this on my own, and I kept feeling that I had failed. Obviously, it was worth it.

I think that even before the Brown decision, it's important to recognize that there were black doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, educators, civil servants who came out of black schools with black teachers, with the same crippling inequalities that I was exposed to. And somehow, they overcame.

In this year of celebrating a half century after Brown, I think it's worth saying once again that, you know, there is no progress without struggle: words of Frederick Douglass. And we have to continue to struggle, because we're not perfect. We're not there.


PHILLIPS: Well, President Bush is commemorating the anniversary of what many people call one of the signature decisions of the 21st century. He'll be speaking at the new museum in Topeka, Kansas just minutes from now.



PHILLIPS: In our second hour, we're live as the president makes remarks honoring the 50th anniversary of the Brown versus Board of Education ruling. That, and much. LIVE FROM's hour of power starts right after this.

Yes, rock on.


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