Pat Tillman Military Scholar At The Clinton Global Initiative

Posted April 22, 2013

Written by: Rick Schumacher, TMS ‘10

The weekend of April 5 through April 7, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) meeting in Saint Louis, MO. Through the Pat Tillman Foundation, I have had access to quite a few remarkable events, from Leadership Summits to business conferences, and the CGIU is no exception. This has been another amazing experience, one that will stay with me. Even before the event, the process of preparing to go acted as a primer for me.

I spend a lot of my time thinking how I can be better at living up to Pat’s legacy. When I was selected as a Tillman Military Scholar in 2010 and in the intervening years, I have felt this weight of promise on my shoulders that at times is overwhelming and at times invigorating. I have always had a hard time quantifying my potential, always curiously asking why the Pat Tillman Foundation chose me to sit among these future leaders and extremely bright minds. Given that and an innate entrepreneurial spirit, I have spent these past few years trying different ideas out, trying to distill my potential. However, nothing felt right. I was always left with a sense of incompleteness stemming from any endeavor that I was into at the time.

PTF at CGI

I persisted to move forward and take every idea as far as I could feasibly go, while knowing in the back of my mind that whatever I was working on was not exactly right. I am forever grateful to the Foundation for helping me to explore some of these plans. Taken together, I believe all of the experiences afforded me by the Foundation have aggregated into a broad knowledge base that informs my actions today. I also learned more about why I think I was named a Tillman Military Scholar. I realized it at the last summit, when a Foundation staff member remarked that I seem to always be charging forward trying to find my niche and doing more by seizing every opportunity that came to me. I codified this ideal in the Dear World portrait that weekend with the phrase, “Do More” written on my arms. I understand now that I always push forward and attempt to do more, even in the scorching light of failure and adversity.

However, when I was looking at the applying to CGIU, something clicked in me. This was different. I found what I sense as my calling. The sum of my experience, education, determination, and desire coalesced into a project that I named the Community Vanguard Initiative. Essentially, Community Vanguard aims to place veterans who are focused on emergency management educational goals into low-income communities for a set period where they will advocate for hazard mitigation programs, act as a disaster knowledge resource, and build resilient communities through capacity building. Additionally, these vets will gain valuable hands-on knowledge and experience in, not only emergency management, but also city and government planning, public speaking, and community advocacy. They will also be building a network of contacts in the emergency management field, as well as interconnected fields, that will lead to good jobs.

During CGIU, I had the opportunity to listen to President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Jack Dorsey, and Mayor Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Indiana, as well as a host of nonprofit and entrepreneurial thought-leaders. I was also able to meet and network with hundreds of like-minded people who will be instrumental in the success of my project. The conference was short but every moment was electric. I would happily recommend it to any of my fellow Tillman Military Scholars.

I would like to take a moment here to address another topic. During the conference, I was introduced to three Tillman Scholars from ASU who were also presenting commitments to CGIU, Gabby Kissinger, Amy Schellhase, and Jeffery Lam. All are seniors at ASU and all are Tillman Scholar Program Alumni. I felt aged while hanging around with these promising young idealists. However, they seem to have recognized me as a not-so-young idealist and were kind enough to let me hang out with them during the greater portion of the conference. I felt as if I were one part mentor and one part peer. I was an old soldier explaining my take on the early years of war that has lasted almost their entire lives. I was also keenly interested in their views and their understanding of the world around them. I was surprised at how attentive they were and how deeply they viewed their commitment to Pat’s legacy. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to foster more peer or mentor relationships with these other scholars, these other legacy standard-bearers. They really are something else.