He's human but also an inspiration

Dear Gen. David Petraeus,

"A lot of life, I think, is about trying to be like the people you think highly of." I couldn't agree with your own words more, sir. You have been that person for a generation of junior officers and young civilians. You, and several other generals, showed us the best of what the Army could be and modeled a magnetic leadership.

For a handful of months, I was rehabbing a bilateral leg injury. While biking several hours a day, I read books about you and your military strategy. Your pursuit of physical excellence and your can-do attitude spurred me beyond my own perceived limits.

When I find myself in a distinct and small minority in a classroom discussion at the University of Minnesota, I am reminded of your own venture beyond the military bubble and into the Ivy League for graduate school. That period is said to have significantly shaped your strong yet inclusive leadership style, and it demonstrates the value you place on intellect and the dedication with which you chase challenges.

My copy of your masterpiece, the "Counterinsurgency Field Manual," is filled with scribbles and exclamation marks. The level of innovation and grit that you exemplified in the creation of this military strategy is both admirable and motivating. In fact, you and others have been so inspirational that upon graduation I won't head straight to law school, but instead to basic training and Officer Candidate School.

I'm not minimizing adultery, nor do I believe it is something our society should tolerate. But what is occurring is not a moral check. It is a circus, in which one of this nation's best leaders with an outstanding character record is being treated like a reality-TV star. The media dogs are unleashed, and the public gets some thrill from seeing a man so much higher than the majority of us fall.

Sir, you made a mistake. One mistake. A mistake you ended. In light of your character, service and history, our response should be one of grace and privacy as the dust settles. You, in fact, are human just like the rest of us. Central to humanity is the tendency to make mistakes, even grave ones. You have given this country so much, and it is time that we give something back: respect.

Even in this tragedy, you have continued to teach those you've inspired how to respond to failure with honor. We are still looking to you for this. We, and the national-security sector, still need you. My prayers are with you and your family, sir.

O Captain! My Captain!


The writer, a student, lives in Minneapolis.