Veteran Speaker Q&A

Madison Parola, Co-editer-in-Chief

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At the school’s Veterans Day assembly on Friday, Nov. 9, MHS alumnus from the class of 1967 Brigadier Gen. James Swanson spoke in front of the student body about his experience in the military and the importance of every student’s future.


What was it like to be asked to come back to the high school to speak to the entire student body?

Exceptionally gratifying and fun.


What do you hope students took out of your speech?

I hope they came away with a little better understanding of the American military and also understood how very much the assembly and their participation meant to all the veterans who were there.


What does Veterans Day mean to you?

It means a lot. It tells me that most Americans, including young Americans, genuinely appreciate those who serve in uniform. That wasn’t necessarily the case when I was in high school, when too many in this country took out their anger with the unpopular Vietnam War on those who were serving in the military.


What advice would you give to high school students who are thinking about going into the military?

Today’s military demands a lot from those who serve, including hard work, great integrity and unwavering dedication to its overarching mission of protecting this nation. It also provides immense personal satisfaction, great opportunity for advancement, a wonderful lifestyle, terrific educational and technical training opportunities and the truly unique opportunity to be part of something really important.


What activities were you involved in during your four years at MHS?

My extracurricular activities primarily involved sports (four years of basketball, track and cross country) and working on The Mustang; I was sports editor my junior year and editor-in-chief my senior year.


What was your experience as the editor-in-chief of The Mustang?  

It was a terrific experience. The demands of journalism made me a much better writer, teaching me how to meet deadlines and to communicate quickly, succinctly and effectively.  Those skills served me very well throughout my subsequent career as a military lawyer. Equally as important, as editor-in-chief, I discovered I really liked the challenges and rewards inherent in leading a group of very talented people to collaborate and accomplish a difficult “mission”– in this case, publishing a quality student newspaper on a weekly basis.


How did playing sports in high school help you in your future endeavors?

Apart from convincing me that I was not destined to be a pro athlete when I grew up, sports taught me the absolute importance of teamwork and constantly demonstrated to me that almost anything can be accomplished when people are focused and motivated to work together toward a common goal.


What is one experience in high school that impacted your future career?

Being selected as one of two National Merit Finalists in my class seemed to open a lot of doors.


What was your favorite quality about MHS?

MHS in the 1960s was a challenging, but safe and enjoyable, learning environment, with any number of exceptional teachers who really seemed to care about their students.  Based on my recent visit, it appears to me that MHS in the 21st Century is still that kind of place.


Are there any other comments you’d like students to know?

There are no limits to what you can accomplish as you journey through life. Go Mustangs