Ham: Serving Others is Enduring Citizen Responsibility

Ham: Serving Others is Enduring Citizen Responsibility

Soldiers in lineup
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay

Understanding civic duties starts at home and continues through education and engagement, according to a former senior Army leader. 

“You have responsibilities that come along with the privileges of being an American citizen,” retired Gen. Carter Ham, president and CEO of the Association of the U.S. Army, said Dec. 14. “There are lots of ways to fulfill that.”

Speaking during a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ham said many Americans who haven’t lived, served or observed other forms of government “don’t really recognize what the alternatives are.”

“If they saw them ... up close as the three of us have, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars every day to be in this great country,” Ham said, speaking alongside retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and retired Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, former commander of U.S. Northern Command.

Ham said the idea of serving others “was a central theme” when he was growing up. In school, courses in history and government were required, he said, noting these courses are now “falling by the wayside.” 

Exercising civic responsibilities—and the ability to hold leaders accountable—involves “a bit of investment” among citizens to learn, read, listen, engage, vote and make their interests known, Ham said.

Civilian oversight of the military is “hugely important,” Ham said. Because the process of being nominated, vetted and confirmed for a senior military position is rigorous, he said, senior commanders are accountable for their actions.

“It’s not my army. It's not the Army’s army. It’s America’s army,” Ham said. “It is accountable to the people of America.”