Retired Former Major General Michael Harrison of the United States Army served for thirty four years on behalf of the citizens of this country. Few careers in the military endure for over three decades as his did and he has never taken that for granted. He has always been a leader and a man of service. His path to this career was sown in his upbringing. He grew up in a time of tumult with a flurry of changes within our society that was related to civil rights and the struggles that led up to it. He attended Howard University and emerged a man ready to take on the world and he most certainly did as a member of the military. It was a career that would take on a life of its own as he rose through the ranks on the backs of many great Americans that preceded him. He has always been a man of exemplary principles that he has maintained throughout his entire life. He is fond of hard work, commitment and dedication in every single thing that he does and that kind of value system is part of what makes him an obvious leader. It is why he rose to the rank that he did and it is the reason why he has been a mentor to so many other members of the military as well as civilians. Harrison has always applied himself fully in all situations in his life, which is something he plans on carrying on now that he has rejoined the life of a civilian.
Often, students are encouraged to stay focused and work hard in order to achieve academic success. In addition, learning how to study, undertake assignments and being a team player also help a student undertake the routine requirements of schoolwork. However, preparation and the ability to handle challenges are just as important in enabling a student accomplish their academic goals.
Former Major General Michael Harrison often spoke at high school graduation ceremonies while he served in the United States Army. Because of his strong leadership qualities and love of education, he was often viewed as the perfect speaker to deliver inspirational messages to American youth coming up in the education system. On many of his speeches, he emphasized that being prepared and ready to handle adversity were crucial to academic success.
Having the will to prepare is very vital. While many students wish to be top of their class and feature on the honor roll, not many are prepared to devote the extra effort required to make their dreams come true. As students head into a new class, they are often psyched up and eager to commence. At this point, the fire must be kept alive through a constant desire to prepare adequately.
The ability to handle adversity is also important in a young student’s life. Many times it is the students who demonstrate the ability to hang tough and keep going that gain confidence in their abilities to succeed. They view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
As a decorated retired officer of the United States Army, Former Major General Michael Harrison embraced his role as a leader and mentored many young people, both within and outside the Army. As an alumnus of Howard University, he supported the institution’s ROTC program, and on many occasions, he was invited to speak at lectures and special occasions. Outside of the military, he was a guest speaker at high school graduations, and often had the privilege of presenting the commencement speech.
Having given a couple of commencement speeches in his career, Former Major General Michael Harrison offers tips on giving speeches that are inspirational, memorable, and intelligent.
Have a speech prepared
Even the best actors require scripts to stay on topic. You might view yourself a good speaker, but having a speech prepared is crucial to ensuring your message comes across clearly, and you don’t veer off topic.
Keep it short
You want to keep your commencement speech short. While the excitement of being the special speaker is unique, try not to ramble. Prepare a thoughtful and articulate speech, but also keep it short. Even if you have interesting stuff to say, keep it to a minimum. He admits that he violated this tenant on occasion!
Sometimes, it is how you bring across your message that matters more than what you have to say. Often, the memorable speeches are those that feature speakers who are enthusiastic and lively on stage. Prepare if you have to, and aim to maintain a positive vibe all the way through.
Former Major General Michael Harrison is in civilian life full time, for the first time in more than three decades. He retired from active duty in the United States military, effective in October 2014, and is currently seeing what his options are in the private sector.
“I served in the United States Army for thirty-four years,” he says. “In that capacity, I learned the value of both responsibility and accountability. My value to any organization is that I know firsthand how to develop a vision, gain buy-in from the organization, and lead them to achieve that vision through shared effort.”
From 2006 to 2007, Former Major General Michael Harrison served as a senior leader in Afghanistan, where he was responsible for supporting the equipping and training effort of the Afghan National Army. He said that that time that the global war on terrorism posed a genuine threat to the freedom-loving people of the world.
“The enemy that we see in Afghanistan is an elusive one,” he said. “It has many names and many faces. I think what is important for the American people to understand is that the men and women of our great country are doing a tremendous job here. They are well trained, they’re well led, and they are well-resourced.”
Former Major General Michael Harrison said that it was the highest privilege of his military career to lead what he terms “America’s sons and daughters” both at home and abroad. “There is no higher honor, and I am immensely proud that I had that opportunity,” he said.
Former Major General Michael Harrison is transitioning from the military life to civilian life. He spent thirty-four years as a soldier in the United States Army before retiring from active duty in October of 2014.
As he weighs his options in the private sector, where he says his ideal job would be as an Executive Coach in a large, International firm, he is taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with his family. That is something that has been in short supply during his thirty-four years of honorable military service, when he was often away on training exercises or deployed. He is also catching up on his reading, watching as much football as he can, and enjoying listening to his favorite music; in particular rhythm and blues (Motown especially 60s-80s), gospel, and country music.
That period, as he knows, was one of the most active and inventive times in American popular music, and it spawned some of the great music of the modern era. Nowadays, the term “rhythm and blues” means most African American urban music, but Former Major General Michael Harrison has an affinity for the “60s-80s classics. No rhythm and blues collection would be complete, he says, without recordings by the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, the Dells, Four Tops, Manhattans, James Brown, Larry Graham, Etta James, Aaron Neville, and many songs by Marvin Gaye. I am also a big fan of the gospel greats such as The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Harmonizing Four, The Consolers, Elvis Presley (yes, he sang gospel), Candi Staton’s gospel renditions.
And then there is the music of such icons as Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Smoky Robinson, and the Johnny Taylor.
Music scholars often say that rhythm and blues was forged from the southern blues music brought north and blended with more sophisticated urban jazz. But Former Major General Michael Harrison just knows great music when he hears it.
Former Major General Michael Harrison spent more than three decades in the United States Army, and says that one of the most satisfying things he did there was to lead and mentor the troops under his command. “I was given the opportunity and afforded the privilege of leading America’s sons and daughters as a US Army Officer, both at home and abroad,” he recalls. “There is no higher honor, and I am immensely proud that I had that opportunity.”
He has always understood the importance of mentoring. “I grew up in a small rural town, surrounded by a loving family and strong supportive community,” he recalls. “Neighbors cared about children and took personal responsibility for their welfare.” There is a very popular phrase we hear often….”It takes a Village…” That concept was alive, well, and practiced in my hometown.
Mentors, he says, can have an enormous positive impact on developing lives of young people. In this he is in agreement with Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, who says that giving people advice on how they can achieve their goals is something that is too often overlooked. “Mentoring was very important for me, personally,” Branson says.
Former Major General Michael Harrison says that nothing less than the future of the United States rests on how today’s emerging generation of young people are instructed and influenced by the generation that they are following. “The next generation represents the future leadership of our country,” he says. “It is my responsibility, and the responsibility of my generation, to ensure they are well prepared for their eventual leadership role in leading America.”
Former Major General Michael Harrison, who retired from active duty in the Army in October of 2014, says that one of his goals in private life is to become the president of a College or University, where he can inspire young men and women to become the best people that they can be.
Former Major General Michael Harrison spent thirty-four years in the United States Army before retiring from active duty in October 2014.
“I learned the value of both responsibility and accountability,” he says, as he reflects on his long military experience.
In 2011, Former Major General Michael Harrison was the Commanding General of US Army Japan and First Corps (Forward), and in that capacity visited the annual Orient Shield, an annual, bi-lateral Brigade and Regimental tactical field training exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. “I wanted to observe the Orient Shield exercise that’s being conducted by a unit out of the Texas Army National Guard, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry,” he said shortly after arriving. “Neither of these units – the Texas Guard or the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force – had met, and they have forged a friendship, and a great deal of respect for each others’ capabilities.”
Former Major General Michael Harrison received a tour of the Camp Kita-Fuji grounds, and a briefing about the training that was taking place. He also met with the Chief of Staff of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force to discuss the bi-lateral operations and discussed ideas for future cooperation help sustain the continued positive and professional relationship between the United States and Japan.
Since retiring from active duty, Former Major General Michael Harrison has been exploring opportunities in the private sector, and says that he would love to be an Executive Coach for an International firm. Further down the road, he says that he would like to become the President of a College or University. “My goal is to help make organizations better,” he says, “more effective and efficient.”