Claude Monet Poppies at Giverny (1887)

Less than an hour has passed since I learned of the death of William F. Mullen, late of the United States Marines. Thus, this post will be less of an obituary than a reflection on the virtues that I observed in the course of the past two decades or so.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Major General Mullen is his focus on the future. At a time when so many tolerated, and, indeed, embraced, the tyranny of the here and now, he invariably gave due weight to the long-term implications of every decision he made.

While at the helm of the Marine Corps University, he championed the introduction of entrance examinations. These, he believed, would limit attendance at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College to officers who had, in the years before matriculation, taken the trouble to educate themselves in the rudiments of their profession. (Alas, folks higher in the hierarchy fell prey to the argument that such tests would deprive dim, but fit and friendly, lads and lasses of opportunities for advancement.)

On a happier note, Mullen convinced his superiors to promulgate Learning, a manual that reminded Marines of the importance of self-directed education, intellectual initiative, and a culture of continuous curiosity.