By Jessica Adams & Nathan Orrill, USAFA 2014 / 2013 ASAP Alums
In March 2014, Jessica Adams and Nathan Orrill, two participants of the American Service Academies Program (ASAP) presented at the National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS) at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). Here, they share their experiences with us during a Q&A.
What is the NCLS?
NCLS is a one of the nation’s premier symposia in the field of character and leadership development, bringing together distinguished scholars, military leaders, corporate executives, world-class athletes, and others to explore a character-related theme based on the United States Air Force Academy’s institutional outcome. It is held annually at the Air Force Academy and this year’s theme was: “Character Overcoming Conflict: Individual Stories, Global Impact.”
What was the topic of your presentation?
We were invited to speak at this event as members of a cadet panel, to provide the “cadet” perspective on the Holocaust and ethical leadership dilemmas. Drawing upon the lessons learned during the program and our experiences throughout the trip, we presented on a wide array of issues to an audience of over 120 people. In attendance were USAFA department heads, visiting students and professors, and the Surgeon General of the Israeli Defense Forces, Brigadier General Kriess.
What were the highlights of the presentation?
The panel sparked both insightful and relevant discussion among the audience members. Much like the experience of cadets and midshipmen participating in ASAP, the audience encountered many of the same difficult questions and dilemmas. Though time was limited, we were successful in recreating the environment of sharing, critical thought, and forthright discussion, which was so essential and beneficial during the ASAP. There were two moments in particular that spoke to the credit and value of the ASAP and Holocaust education in general. The first was when a Jewish sophomore cadet expressed awe that the talk was standing room only. He said that the crowded room brought him close to tears, impressing upon him that so many of his fellow classmates and teachers cared about the Holocaust.
The second moment was when General Kreiss’ son publicly thanked the panel for his father, and then later personally expressed his gratitude, saying that as a Jew and an Israeli the Holocaust is an obvious, integral part of who they are. However, he and his father did not come to America, and the USAFA, expecting to hear a talk about the Holocaust. They were touched, saying they would never forget this talk. The impact on the whole audience was noticeable and profound; many listeners came up after the talk expressing their gratitude and thanks.
How did doing this panel tie into your ASAP experience?
One of the most important aspects of the program is continuing education and increasing public awareness, and we can say confidently that our participation in this panel met this goal. We wish to thank the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Auschwitz Jewish Foundation for sponsoring ASAP and allowing us the opportunity to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to our peers, colleagues, and superiors.
Jessica Adams is majoring in English Literature with minors in Arabic and Spanish at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Originally from outside Atlanta, Georgia, she plans on attending the University of Virginia after she graduates to pursue a Master’s Degree in British Literature before beginning her Air Force career as a Public Affairs Officer.
Nathan Orrill is a senior cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy majoring in political science and minoring in Arabic language. After graduation in May 2014, he will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and will attend Intelligence Officer School in Texas.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. For additional blog entries by and about the Auschwitz Jewish Center, please visit mjhnyc.org/tag/ajc. All Spring 2014 newsletter articles are found here.