Brian Cunningham *15

"Success is passing the torch."

Brian Cunningham is a Naval officer with over 18 years of experience in the Department of Defense and Special Operations. He received a Masters in Public Policy from The Woodrow Wilson School in 2015.   

Read to learn about Commander Cunningham's definition of service, his dreams for the future, and what success means to him.

1. If time and money were not a factor, what would you do with your life?
I would finish out my expertise within the military and setting policies to create an eternally innovative and dominate world police force. I would then step

 into a governmental role and try to make governmental changes that carry a similar innovative ability and provide for the necessary adaptability of governance to be able to proactively meet the changing world. Lastly, I would then like to step into a philanthropic role to help bring many of the groups, foundations and associations together so that a mutually complementary effort can be created to help effectively fill in the gaps of government, and empower the citizens of the U.S. to believe and support our way of life.

2. How do you define service?
Service to me initially started as the narrow ideal of military service since this was the pathway the men in my family had taken over the years for generations. This changed quite notably over my years in the military service; for the better I hope. Service to me now is a risky commitment made by an individual to join, support, or lead an organization that focuses its effort and results on the betterment of mankind or a contributing subcategory of that betterment. I narrow my emphasis on this vast area by saying that people who serve do so without a goal of personal gain other than the self-satisfaction or personal development that comes in success or failure. Additionally, I believe that as an American we all have an obligation to commit at some point in our lives to serve in a way that will improve the country as we know it, and help define our privilege as a citizen; paying taxes and voting is not enough to earn citizen status. What makes our country and life good and resilient through conflict is our cumulative positive efforts, and these efforts require the fiber by fiber braiding together of individuals to become a strong rope that pulls our community, country, and world confidently into the future.

3. What does success mean to you?
Success to me is being able to see accomplishments of those who follow us far outstrip our accomplishments. I see success when those we mentor transition into mentoring others and pass the torch. I see success in a simple approving nod from our elders, or the child that immediately stands up, dusts off, and starts again with a smile after falling down.

This interview was conducted and condensed by Lisa Einstein '13