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New RSG Speaker Series Welcomes Brigadier General

By Amanda Morad | January 9, 2014

RSG dean, Dr. Eric Patterson stands with Brigadier General Dick F. Abel, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)

Regent University's Robertson School of Government (RSG) launched a new speaker series this week, "Defense Against the Dark Arts." On Tuesday, Jan. 7, RSG hosted Brigadier General Dick F. Abel, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), to discuss the ethical challenges a career in public service poses.

"We've started this series under the notion that people do know right from wrong, whether or not they're willing to uphold it," said RSG dean, Dr. Eric Patterson. "Can a Christian really function in public life without lying? Do you have to put your values in the closet to get things done? We don't believe that to be true."

Abel doesn't either. In his long career as a public affairs officer, Abel has seen all manner of war and scandal. In other posts with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Crusade, and the International Olympics Committee, he's seen servant leadership win hearts.

"If you want to make a difference in your marketplace, you have to know who you are; you have to like who you are; and you have to be who you are," he said.

From admirals and cadets, to Olympians and college quarterbacks, Abel's reputation as a man of integrity has given him personal influence in a number of fields.

"It doesn't matter where you are; your work is your place of ministry," he told students in attendance. "If you're a ditch digger, your job is to minister to the other people in the ditch with you."

In one example, Abel described his close working relationship with Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. The "salty" leader of the U.S. Pacific Command during Vietnam spent lots of time with Abel. "I never said one thing about my faith, but I served him and loved him where he was," said Abel. The McCains ended up attending church with the Abels.

"Regardless of people's ethics around you, respect them for who they are and let them see who you are," he encouraged. "Your influence is in how you live and how you love."

Throughout his years in the military, Abel was involved in many major, historic events, like bringing home POWs from China and the Desert One operation in Iran. "In all these incidents, my superiors knew exactly who I was—not just my faith or my background, but my heart," he recalled. "You build your credibility with your bosses so that they know, recognize and respect your integrity."

Though he was faced with many ethical dilemmas in his dealings with the media over the years, he never once lied to a member of the press, nor was he ever given an order to lie. Years of rock-solid character had positioned him to be both trusted and respected.

"Do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons and you'll be on the right side every time," he said. "You can be a follower of Jesus in any arena if you're a person of conviction."

Abel left students with a word of advice on legacy. "What you do today will stay with you forever," he said. "Your legacy is who you meet every day and how you impact them."

Abel is the author of two books, The DNA of Leadership and Vector Corrector.

Learn more about the Robertson School of Government.


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