UNO Holds 3rd Chuck Hagel Symposium in Public Service


Jared Barton

Chuck Hagel is standing at a podium giving a speech
Chuck Hagel speaks in Strauss Performing Arts Center in February 2019. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

Last Friday, former secretary of defense, U.S. senator and Maverick Chuck Hagel attended and delivered the keynote address for the third Chuck Hagel Symposium in Public Service.

Randall Atkins introduced the event, giving an order of events and general information regarding the event and speakers, without spoiling too much about the speakers. Initially, Chancellor Gold was intended to speak, but was suddenly unable and sent a video proxy in his stead. The video introduced Chuck Hagel and thanked him for what he’d done for the university. Gold also thanked attendees for coming, noting how important engagement in public service is among young people. Following the video address, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sacha Kopp took the stage to welcome Secretary Hagel to campus.

University of Nebraska at Omaha student body president Aya Yousuf spoke last, discussing how UNO has influenced her as a student and how she views public service.

“My strong desire for public service is what brought me here,” Yousuf said.

She said of the commonality of UNO’s students’ desire and need to help and advocate for those around them, that all are united in “one common goal and responsibility: to serve others.”

Secretary Hagel took the stage after a warm welcome by Yousuf. He started by thanking her and UNO for welcoming him to the school.

“This isn’t about me, it’s not even really about UNO. It’s about you,” Hagel said in regard to who public service is by and for.

He went on to congratulate the Omaha high school football team(s) who had won the playoffs and tell a story about what public service really means.

Hagel had given a couple speeches outside Washington and said he had gotten to thinking about what public service really was, saying, “that’s a pretty wide area…” He mentioned teachers and how they are influential because they deal with the future America. Then he brought up government employees, and how they, despite their occasional mistakes, perform an essential task. Then, he mentioned medical, fire and police, the quickest answer for most, and their service to society.

Hagel said that everyone should do some manner of volunteer work.

“It so broadens you, it enhances you in so many ways. It defines you,” Hagel said.

He also said this country provides you so many opportunities to better yourself and help others.

Before opening the floor to questions, he reminisced on the late 1960s, when he and his brother returned from Vietnam after the war. He said UNO really helped develop the community around it since then, because it was in the perfect place, literally and figuratively.

Last, the floor opened for questions, which ranged from the recent death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to whether he has ever considered running for president. During a question regarding courage in the job force in a time where ethics can be costly, he left a quote that summarizes the event and answers the question aptly.

“Character embodies integrity and honesty,” Hagel said.