This week I spent a day at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. During my visit, I felt as if I were on a different planet. Located 7,000 feet above sea level, just down the road from Pike's Peak, the Academy's campus is magnificent. The Colorado sky seemed very close overhead. It was bright blue as it is typically, and its blueness was mirrored on the campus below by 4200 cadets in their Air Force Blue uniforms. The Academy is all about flying so the setting is very appropriate.
The courtesy extended to me by everyone I met is part of the Academy's culture. The students called me "ma'am". They were unfailingly polite. One member of the graduating class gave me a tour of the campus. He is a group commander which means he was chosen to be the leader of 1000 cadets. We walked the entire campus. Not at my best (the altitude takes some getting used to), I managed to keep up with his pace, but it wasn't easy. When he left me at my next appointment, I asked for his mother's email address so I could tell her what a fine young leader her son has become.
I had lunch with some student leaders and administrators on a balcony overlooking the dining hall. Below us sat 4200 cadets. The way they marched in, lined up and were seated with their 100 squadron-mates reminded me of the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in its precision.
The administrator who planned my day told me what a difficult adjustment the cadets have in their first year. Often, when they go home for the holidays, they are ill-at-ease with their friends and families because they have changed so much.
The cadets work very hard on their studies, but they take their sports and other activities seriously too. (Perhaps you have seen the push-ups they do for every point their football team scores?)
These men and women are training to be leaders who, along with the graduates of our other military academies, will keep our country safe.
I think we are in good hands.