Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Mattis: This Is The One Book Every American Should Read
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis thinks every American should read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
After giving a speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute on Tuesday, Mattis was asked what he would hypothetically tell every American to read. Meditations — which he frequently consults and recommends, was at the top of his list.
"Especially in Washington D.C., with all the political heave and ho that I try to keep the Department of Defense out of, there can be a sense at times, my fine young cadet, that it’s the first time anyone’s dealt with something like X, Y, or Z. And certainly in combat the reason I kept a tattered copy in my rucksack to pull out at times was it allowed me to look at things with a little distance," Mattis said.
Written as a series of private notes to himself over a 20-year-period, the Roman emperor offered his ideas on the Stoic philosophy and how he overcame challenges in his daily life.
Fortunately, he wrote in fairly plain language, making his thoughts still accessible to this day.
"And so Marcus Aurelius had a very tough life," Mattis said. "He’s the Emperor of Rome but he’s got everything going wrong in his home life. His wife and his son were not people that you’d want to spend much time with. He spends almost all of his time up on the fringes of the Empire trying to protect the thing and the one time he leaves the German forest seems to be to go kill one of his friends who’s revolted against him in another place. It was a tough life and yet the humility and the dignity with which he conducted his life — the commitment to his country, to his troops, really comes through as you read those pages."
There's a good reason why Meditations is one of Mattis' favorites. In the world of politics and back-stabbing that is Washington, D.C., the stoic ideals shine through as philosophical armor against the daily bulls--t. Like, for example, this: "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."
Consider this passage, which can easily be ascribed to a variety of people Mattis has to deal with on a daily basis:
"When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions."
Beyond Meditations, Mattis also said you "could do no better" than to read the autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant.
"I think his memoirs would be the one if you want something that’s perhaps not quite so ancient," he said. "I really didn’t serve with Marcus Aurelius, I just look that old; okay?"
You can watch his full speech below, or click here for some more on Mattis' favorite books.
More than 7,500 boots on display at Fort Bragg this month served as a temporary memorial to service members from all branches who have died since 9/11.
The boots — which had the service members' photos and dates of death — were on display for Fort Bragg's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's annual Run, Honor and Remember 5k on May 18 and for the 82nd Airborne Division's run that kicked off All American Week.
"It shows the families the service members are still remembered, honored and not forgotten," said Charlotte Watson, program manager of Fort Bragg's Survivor Outreach Services.
After more than a decade of research and development and upwards of $500 million in funding, the Navy finally plans on testing its much-hyped electromagnetic railgun on a surface warship in a major milestone for the beleaguered weapons system, Navy documents reveal.
The Navy's latest Northwest Training and Testing draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment (NWTT EIS/OEIS), first detailed by the Seattle Times on Friday, reveals that " the kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets."
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.
Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.
When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.
An NSA cyber weapon is reportedly being used against American cities by the very adversaries it was meant to target
In less than three years after the National Security Agency found itself subject to an unprecedentedly catastrophic hacking episode, one of the agency's most powerful cyber weapons is reportedly being turned against American cities with alarming frequency by the very foreign hackers it was once intended to counter.
The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles roaring their way through the streets of Washington, D.C., to Memorial Day events as part of the annual Rolling Thunder veterans tribute will be a thing of the past after this coming weekend.
Former Army Sgt. Artie Muller, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Rolling Thunder, said the logistics and costs of staging the event for Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, were getting too out of hand to continue. The ride had become a tradition in D.C. since the first in 1988.
"It's just a lot of money," said the plainspoken Muller, who laced an interview with a few epithets of regret over having to shut down Rolling Thunder.