Veterans Can Unite the Country
In his keynote speech at the fourth annual Suffolk University Veterans Luncheon, alumnus Setti Warren JD ‘07 encouraged attendees to embrace the experiences of veterans to heal the country’s deep divisions.
Warren, a veteran of the United States Navy and former mayor of the town of Newton who now serves as the executive director of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, noted the military’s unique standing in this age of polarization and public mistrust.
“There are surveys that are showing that people have lost great confidence in institutions in our country [including] the federal government, the judiciary, and the media,” said Warren. “Interestingly, the only institution that has actually gained in confidence is the military. The only group of people that have actually gained the confidence of the American public are veterans.”
Recounting his personal and family history of service, Warren shared insights from his grandfather, who served in a segregated unit during World War II, and his father, who took an active role in the civil rights movement on his return from Korea.
“Both of these men served their country at a time when their country did not see them as full citizens,” he said. “My father reminded me that [the military] saw people post-desegregation not through race but through the quality of their work. He ingrained that belief in me and he lived by it every single day. He loved this country and so did my grandfather. And both of these men knew other people outside of their own communities and race and worked with people deliberately, believing in the community as a whole.”
The ability to work with others to achieve common goals is a necessity in combat, and a skill that can be applied to problems faced by the country.
“As you all know, as veterans, you can’t afford to not talk to someone in theater because they’re a different race or gender than you. I couldn’t afford to do that. So why are we allowing that to happen in our own communities when so much is at stake?”
Warren said he “went into [deployment] with strangers, but left with brothers and sisters.”
After returning from Iraq, he used that experience to run for mayor and lead his community. Now he advocates for others to learn and benefit from the perspectives, commitment, and leadership qualities veterans bring.
“Let’s do everything we can to promote veterans into leadership, in the classroom at the University, and outside of it. [They have] the qualities we need to go to the next level in this country as far as healing the divisions and bringing people together.”