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Education: An Ongoing Curriculum in Life’s Journey

By Jake Leinenkugel, White House Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 



Growing up as a child of the 1950s I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to a wonderful childhood education. The 50s and 60s were an era of seeing America begin big and bold initiatives in interstate highway expansion, the rapid build-up of the post WWII middle class, the beginning of the space program and a revitalization of the importance of education for all Americans. Back then families were the foundation and strengths of our communities. Parents were adamant their sons and daughters were receiving the best education possible. Parent/teacher conferences were the norm. Doing homework and what I called “additional home schooling” by reading or reciting what you learned that day was expected around the dinner table. You were schooled to continue further education after high school or learn a trade, join the military, Peace Corps or begin an immediate vocation. Times have changed.


What has not changed is the value and importance of education. I, like many, believe education is an ongoing curriculum in life’s journey. You learn or at least should, every day during that adventure. My favorite quote this regard is from Nelson Mandela who so wisely stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world.” Reflecting back from my over 65 years of existence I couldn’t agree more.

I was privileged to become a Marine Infantry Officer in my mid-20s. By that time I had successfully completed all levels of education I thought were required, elementary, high school and college. It was the Marine Corps where I learned my education was just beginning. They provided military training in leadership, management, critical decision making, crisis management, world history, international politics, logistics, supply side management and most importantly cultural diversity and inclusion. They also provided attendance at seminars, think tanks and, if you chose, completion of your next degree at their expense. 


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As a veteran, I am so pleased to see the continued importance of great organizations providing ongoing educational opportunities for all to utilize. My charge for all veterans is to continue to use these well-earned and deserved benefits so that they may become the ones that continue to be the leaders in making the right decisions to change the world.


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