By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- OMG and LOL, two acronyms typically reserved for the cell phone screen, took on a more affirmative message during a presentation delivered on Thursday by Rear Admiral June Ryan to cadets of Randolph-Macon Academy.
Ryan, who started serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1982 and has presided as Military Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security since June, shared the journey leading her to her current position and the importance of positivity in leadership.
Her presentation, titled "The POWER of OMG and LOL," helped motivate cadets and remind them about core values.
She ran down the list of acronyms, adding specific anecdotes and life experiences to each. The P in POWER, she explained, stands for "positive affirmative phrases."
She said that the O stands for "optimism." She compared being optimistic during moments of adversity to hatching butterflies, who need to flex the muscles in their wings and connective tissue to break through a chrysalis and become stronger in the process.
Proceeding through the rest of the word, she said that the W stands for "We," the E stands for "energy and enthusiasm" and the R stands for "recharge and rest."
"A car runs out of gas if you don't visit the gas station and fill it up," she said. "If you're leading all the time and don't rest, you burn out."
Ryan said that OMG can be remembered as "Oh what the heck, go for it anyways," -- a mantra that was repeated throughout her discussion -- "Motivation from within myself" and "Goodness and paying it forward to other people." She added that LOL stands for "Lead Or Led."
The presentation had a positive effect on motivating the cadets who attended.
Madeline Chafin, a senior at R-MA from Raleigh, N.C, described Ryan as a role model. Chafin said she's not only wanted to join the Coast Guard since third grade, but also has been mentored by Ryan since the sixth grade, shadowing the officer around Fort Macon in North Carolina and taking her lessons to heart. On Thursday, Chafin introduced Ryan to the rest of the cadets.
"I learned to be a little bit more enthusiastic," Chafin said following the presentation. "I took a lot of leadership advice."
Naji Bseiso and Jordan Wiggins, two Falcon Foundation Scholars at the academy, said the presentation taught them more about leading others.
"Leadership isn't always something where you lead from the front," Wiggins said. "It shows strong leadership when you allow others to take the lead and you have trust in them, which makes them believe in themselves and they perform at a higher level."
As Falcon Foundation Scholars, the two students had their applications to the Air Force Academy rejected after graduating from high school and are attending prep school for a year before reapplying.
Bseiso said he enjoyed seeing the mindset of a person ranked as high as Ryan.
"Understanding their motivation, how they end up doing what they do and her being that important, that high up, it's pretty awesome to see how they think and how they do what they do," he said.
"It looks like to me she gets excited about what she does everyday," he said.
Currently a Fairfax resident, Ryan has worked on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil leak, patrolled coastal waters for trafficked narcotics and illegal aliens and is one of only three women in history to serve as military aide to the president of the United States.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org