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Petraeus talk: Constant preparation opens opportunities

Petraeus talk: Constant preparation opens opportunities

April 2nd, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Retired Gen. David Petraeus speaks with members of the news media Saturday, April 1, 2017 before the events of the Churchill Fellows Weekend got underway in Fulton.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus gave a wide-ranging talk to a large audience at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury in Fulton on Saturday afternoon.

"I was so privileged to have any command," said Petraeus, who led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much like Winston Churchill, Petraeus worked hard for his opportunities.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," he said. "I worked very, very hard to understand the profession, and I was always trying to build intellectual capital and big ideas to form the foundation for action."

Early in his career, Petraeus spent time in England. Recalling an anecdote how in Napoleon Bonaparte's army, every soldier carried a field marshal's baton, he set out to find one for himself. He managed to find a small swagger stick.

"I painstakingly tied it to the frame of my rucksack," he said. "It reminded me to be constantly preparing. Churchill dedicated his life to that end."

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Petraeus is a fan of Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower and, of course, Churchill. He said Churchill modeled many characteristics the armed and intelligence forces need today, like intellectual curiosity, self-deprecating humor and even political flexibility. And he was eminently quotable, Petraeus said.

"Perhaps my favorite quote is, 'If you're going through hell, keep going,'" Petraeus added.

In Petraeus's opinion, Churchill would have enjoyed social media at least as much as President Donald Trump.

"I think he would have been brilliant at tweets," Petraeus said.