The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, domestic threats to democracy and the role young people must play in securing the future of the United States were among the topics discussed by former Sectary of Defense James Mattis during his appearance in Pullman. Mattis spoke to a lively crowd inside Bryan Hall Thursday afternoon as part of The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service’s distinguished lecture series. The event was also streamed live and is available to watch on Youtube. “Some things in our lives are work, some things are fun, this one is fun, to come back to the town I was born,” Mattis said in his opening remarks. During his decades of service to the United States, Mattis served in 70 countries, working cooperatively with diligent leaders despite often not sharing a common language. He retired from the U. S. Marine Corps in 2013 as a four-star general, later serving as Secretary of Defense from 2017 until 2019.
At the heart of his remarks was the importance of cooperation, compromise and the necessity of free speech as a means of ensuring that ideas can be debated in good faith. Talking specifically to the students in the audience, he encouraged them to work together despite the heated rhetoric that currently pits individuals of different ideologies against one-another. “You can grow up defending the rights of people you disagree with, you can grow up with respect for people that you disagree with, you can have a rousing good argument with all the passion in the world, yet lose none of your compassion for them as human beings,” Mattis said. He added, “Don’t believe what you’re seeing right now is somehow an example of how a democracy has to be.”