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An Interview with General David Petraeus

BY: RYAN ADELL

While Next Generation Politics always strives to demonstrate that the next generation of citizens and public servants can lead by example, it is, of course, necessary to understand and learn from successful leaders of today. General David Petraeus is certainly one of those leaders. As the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the Obama Administration and a four-star general, Petraeus is a reflective and experienced individual. In a recent interview with Next Generation Politics, Petraeus provided insight that will surely prove valuable to Generation Z as it embarks on a path of leadership and public service.

Petraeus currently serves as a Partner and Chairman of the Global Institute at KKR, a private equity company. One of my first questions for Petraeus, after he discussed his distinguished career in the United States Military, Central Intelligence Agency, and work with several non-profits and think tanks, was why he never decided to pursue elected office; in his response Petraeus noted that he has done his best to remain nonpartisan throughout his career, especially during his time with the U.S Military and CIA and he maintains that position to this day. Pursuing elected office is by no means the only way to exercise leadership in government, and General Petraeus is a prime example of this. On the topic of leadership, Petraeus later went on to note that several qualities of effective leaders do, in fact, translate to leadership in business, government, military and other spaces. He noted that learning is an integral component of leadership, emphasizing that a “lesson is not learned when identified but incorporated,” whether that be in military tactics, corporate strategy, or public policy. In the same vein, Petraeus explained that he would like to see after-action reviews – frequently used in the armed forces – used more in business and government. After-action reviews, at least in the armed forces, are objective, and as Petraeus described, “brutally honest” at times. Incorporating objective analyses that transcend partisan lines when making public policy decisions certainly sounds attractive, and, at the least, logical.

Our conversation shifted to a discussion on how elected officials in the United States should behave. Petraeus stated that it would be “wonderful to see some compromise,” noting that compromise is a requirement for progress. While centrist views have largely been eroded in the House of Representatives, Petraeus was unwavering in his belief that compromise is necessary for progress.  

Petraeus progressed to discuss his outlook on the future, noting that the next generation must “seek out of its intellectual comfort zone” in its endeavors; he stressed the importance of engaging in different experiences, as it is ultimately those experiences that allow one to solve complex problems, and the next generation is going to need to accomplish just that.

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