The two oldest armed force academies (basically specialized universities) in the US are the US Military Academy at West Point for the Army and the US Naval Academy at Annapolis for the Navy. To go to either one you need to be recommended by a member of Congress. As a result, the students are fine young men and women … but it also means that their football teams (American football, not “another tie game 0 – 0” football) will likely not be in the top-tier.
Of course they play each other, and the rivalry is very old (by colonial terms, not European terms). The first time they played was in 1890, a century and a quarter ago. When I was a kid and for many years thereafter it was traditional for the US President to attend the game. He’d sit on one side for half the game and on the other side for the other half, to show his neutrality.
The Army-Navy game was played today. Obama last attended the game in 2011 … so guess who shows up unannounced?
Why, in rolls the armor-plated limo containing the President-Elect. Arrives to immense cheers. Wisely mindful of the custom and aware he’s not President, he doesn’t cross the field at half-time, oh, no, he’s too canny for that. Instead, he spends half the game in the private box of an Army supporting guy, and the other half in the private box of a Navy supporting guy … how can you not laugh at the thought that’s gone into this?
So why is the President-Elect at a stupid college football game? Because for all of these young men and women, he is their Commander-in-Chief, their bosses’ bosses’ boss. He is the man who well may order them into battle. Of all of his constituents they are the nearest to him in a curious manner.
He scored two huge coups here. First, he showed up and the President didn’t … and don’t think the academy members didn’t notice.
Next, he has just secured the allegiance perhaps for their lifetime of many, perhaps most of the young men and women who are the future leaders and generals of our military … for the cost of showing up for one football game, now they know he’s on their side and equally, they are on his side. I’m sure he met with some of them, spoke with them, he praised them in media interviews on-site … and now, for the next years, the academies will be turning out young officers who know he’s with them, that he does think about them. But it’s more than that, much more.
You gotta understand, this is not figuratively but literally a matter of their life and death. Their own President may kill them. And to his great credit, Trump has shown that he knows the weight of that burden and the onus of that heavy relationship on him.
Here’s the odd part. They don’t owe him anything. He owes them everything, because they are willing to die for him.
It is a most encouraging thing to see that he is aware of this profound debt, and that has acknowledged it by this highly significant public gesture.
Finally, in my post How a Businessman Takes Over A New Industry I discussed Trump’s brilliant strategy of spending every precious moment prior to the inauguration meeting with every major player possible. Consider: he spent half of the game in the private box of Oliver North, the man who ran the Iran-Conra secret operation for Reagan. Again, to be a fly on the wall … if I could talk to Oliver North what would I ask him? Doesn’t mean Trump agrees with him, no way. Like Trump meeting DeCaprio on the climate issue, it’s because North is a major player, huge name recognition. Also, he’s someone who knows where some of the bodies are buried …
In any case, now the Donald knows Oliver North, and perhaps more importantly, North knows him. Part of the secret genius of Trump’s plan that I just realized is that many of these folks have never met him, and often they think they’re going to meet some kind of ogre. Instead they meet a quick-thinking man who listens well, is respectful, and asks very informed questions on a host of subjects.
So one side of his plan is to learn from every major player as I discussed in my previous post. Many of them are auditioning for some job, many are not. But the other the other side of his insistence that he meet everyone in person, the part that I just realized, is that Trump is auditioning with every one of them as well, for the job of being their President. When he meets with Al Gore, or with Rahm Emanuel, or any of the endless string, he is demonstrating to them that he is qualified to be their President too—he listens to them, he explores ideas with them, he is charming and congenial and polite, the perfect host. At the end, they may hate his policies … but they have to respect the respect with which they were treated, and they pretty much have to admit that yes, he’s their President too …
Business schools will be dining out on this for a while …