Personal Thoughts on Truth, Duty, Valour
10155 Gregory B. Mitchell, Class of 1974
As we know from experience, the Royal Military Colleges (RMC) are structured, focused, and demanding in so many ways. As with other universities, they offer a safe environment in which to question, to learn, to grow, and to find our place in the world. But the Military Colleges are so much more. They create an environment to test ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, to develop our intellect, to question and test our beliefs, and to examine and understand the military system to determine if it is a good fit for us. It is at RMC that we begin developing our own leadership style from the good and bad examples we see around us. And it is at RMC that we are blessed with the opportunity to make lifelong friends, to spread our wings, to try out new experiences, perhaps to find love, and certainly to have fun.
Whether we are destined to become Officers in Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces, or to pursue civilian career paths of leadership and responsibility, we could not have made it through the years at the Military Colleges had we not also formed an underlying ethical base. Therefore, by the time we graduate, our commissions, our degrees, and our lives will be built upon a healthy respect for the values of RMC’s defining motto – Truth, Duty, Valour. I say respect, but I also recognize that some might grow cynical or dismissive about TDV, usually because of the destructive words and unethical actions they may have witnessed. That is indeed unfortunate. However, rather than engendering cynicism, I would hope that such circumstances might strengthen our resolve to do what’s right, regardless of what may be done around us by others.
Personally, I loved my time at RMC Kingston, embraced what it offered, and am thankful for the opportunities it gave me. My personal interpretation of Truth, Duty, Valour paved the way for my future, and I consider those three words to represent a lifelong process, always something to strive towards, rather than an end-state.
In my 37-year military career, I held positions at schools, on staff, in command, and on operations, both domestic and overseas, while my subsequent civilian career comprised pursuits in business, consulting, and non-profits organizations. As a result, I can confirm that, regardless of what we do in life, or where we go, we continue to live in an ambiguous world full of new and unexpected challenges and uncharted pathways. For me, that meant that I held no position that was easy, or that was free of ethical or leadership challenges. In all cases, however, my understanding of the precepts embodied within TDV provided the foundation upon which I made decisions, cared for my people, provided advice to my leaders, and took necessary action. And despite my mistakes and shortcomings along the way, I still believe strongly in the importance of that ethical foundation.
As important as those three words are to all of us, please accept my thoughts on their meaning, as I have grown to interpret them.
Truth – Truth is the unwavering adoption of an ethical approach in all we do. It guides our personal and professional selves, regardless of the challenge or the consequence. That notion must, however, be tempered by two facts. First, there are rarely straight-forward and obvious answers awaiting our questions of ethics, and sometimes the phrase ‘Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t’ readily comes to mind. Second, no one can expect perfection, of themselves or of anyone else. We can only strive to do our very best to live up to that ethical ideal in everything we do, both personally and professionally, so that we can forevermore look in the mirror and state confidently that we have ‘Fought the good fight’
Duty – We are Military Officers; that is the profession we have freely chosen. As such, our primary duty is to lead, whether it be from behind in support of our superiors, from the side supporting our colleagues and peers, or from the front as we bear the weighty responsibilities of command. That is our duty – to lead – with all the determination, compassion, self-sacrifice, and responsibility that entails.
Valour – In its simplest form, valour is courage, and it will be tested many times during our career, especially within the profession of arms. However, not all courage is physical. Speaking truth to power requires moral persuasion and moral courage, something that may at times be harder to muster than physical courage but is just as essential.
Combined, these three meaningful words – Truth, Duty, Valour – succinctly and brilliantly represent the highest ideals that we, as Military Officers or Civilian Leaders in Canadian society must strive to attain. Regardless of our professions, rank, status, or personal circumstances, our time at RMC has given us the tools, the know-how, and the opportunity to live up to those ideals. It is up to each of us, as a cohesive group, and as individuals, to do so with vigour and determination.
Very well written Sir! Not that it surprises me. You have always been ‘a cut above’ in so many ways. Bravo Zulu!
I had the honour to address the RRMC parade in fall 1990 on exactly this subject, albeit much less succinctly than my classmate Greg. I must advise however, that understanding the audience sometimes means choosing your words so that they can be digested, while leaving a few kernels to be mulled over as they/we evolve our/their understanding. Morals have never been more important. Kudos Greg.
I wish to echo Don Brodeur’s comment above. Well done Greg!
And that, Greg, is why you were our CWC when I was in second year. Well said!
I have spent most of my post-RMC years in academia in the civilian world. TDV has carried me through many a tough decision and moral dilemma, especially when dealing with those younger than me. I cannot say I have always made the “right choice”, but I have always been comforted by the thoughts you have expressed on Truth, Duty, and Valour.
Félicitations, Greg. Excellente explication de notre devise! VDV
Great, great article. As I went through the values of Truth Duty and Valor as described by you, I reflected on how I was able to integrate those values into my life and career. Truth: I learned from my seniors at Royal Roads to speak truth rather than ask for truth. That meant asking questions in such a way that minimized an opportunity to lie. Duty: the quotation of Nelson over the entrance of the Grant block get Royal Roads is indelibly locked in my mind. It has provided guidance in all that I have done at work and then the leadership roles I have fulfilled on Boards of directors /55 years. Valor: has been my guidance to do what is right. It has given me the courage to leave employers because their values were so different from mine. We need reminders like this every now and then to really appreciate our individual growth and development and the impact that the colleges and the environment they provide it, had on us. Thanks for sharing.