By Benjamin Flosi
Sometimes the military acts as a vanguard for trends in society, as in its early integration efforts; but sometimes it lags in other distinct trajectories such as its acceptance of service members from the lesbian and gay communities. Connecting with private sector professionals through the last three days of the Milken Global Conference and associated events, I realize that the military thankfully moves in the opposite direction of the current national trend of staunch political, geographical, and social division.
Compared to the leaders in the technology, entrepreneurship, banking, and finance sectors that I have come to know at this year’s conference, it was easy for me to see that the members of the Military Leadership Circle are a reflection of the broader military that represents America’s entire geography. Members of our group dot the interior of the country while spanning coast to coast. From the northeast cities, to the plains, the greater mid-west, deep south and Appalachians, I would challenge any institution in the country to find this type of geographical diversity within its ranks. This diversity includes the urban, suburban, exurban, and rural which drive a lot of the electoral division. Of course, moving every 2-3 years from posts ranging from NYC to DC to the corners of Texas and Idaho enhance this unique aspect of the military. As economic and social trends continue to facilitate this “fragmentation,” the MLC and military at large have a unique opportunity to bridge the most worrying societal, economic, and geographical gaps in the country; or at the very least serve as a learning tool through participation with the MI Global conference and through the lifelong relationships we are building.
The starkness of organizational diversity was further revealed by Frank Luntz during a late night off-the-books focus session. In this setting of trust and camaraderie, we each revealed our votes during the last election. I think that the diversity of candidates that we all supported in the previous presidential campaign surprised even us. In our 18-person closed session group, there was no dominant party, no dominant candidate, and no major policy preference as the votes were closely divided among major parties as well as third-party candidates. Again, is there a community, profession, or hobby group that represents this political diversity, and lives and works in harmony under life threatening circumstances? Having lived in NYC and DC, I can affirm that I have yet to encounter these multi-spoked political leanings in such close quarters.
After contrasting the rich diversity naturally woven into the MLC with the more monolithic social and geographical makeup of elite spheres within major industry, I can’t help but wonder if the MLC’s mission to bridge the civilian-military gap should be expanded to include diverse organizational harmony.