U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke at the University of Louisville last week as a guest of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. Esper talked with the Fort Knox Regional Development Alliance and students in the UofL ROTC program before meeting privately with McConnell Scholars.
“[It was] wonderful to meet with our country’s next generation of leaders who are part of the McConnell Scholars Program,” Esper said. “Their intelligence and acumen will be counted on to answer our nation’s call.”
McConnell noted that Esper joins a long list of distinguished speakers to meet with McConnell Scholars. The list includes four secretaries of defense, two sitting U.S. presidents, two CIA directors, Supreme Court justices, and dozens of congressional leaders and ambassadors.
“It’s always important to put ambitious young students in front of accomplished leaders who are currently serving our nation,” said McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg. “Secretary Esper’s diverse career — from serving in the infantry to business and now leading at the highest levels of civilian government — offers great leadership lessons. It was clear to us why he has been called upon to lead the Department of Defense, and we are grateful for his generous insights and time to our students.”
Eric Bush, a senior McConnell Scholar at UofL, presented Esper with a commemorative Louisville Slugger bat to mark his visit.
“I appreciated Secretary Esper’s timely insights on the challenges and opportunities facing our nation, but also his willingness to pass on lessons from his decades of military, civilian, and government leadership,” Bush said.
Esper retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 after spending 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army reserve. He served as chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation think tank, followed by policy and adviser roles for Senator Chuck Hagel and former Senate Majority Bill First. He also served as vice president for government relations at the Raytheon Company before becoming Secretary of the Army in 2017.
Esper became the 27th secretary of defense in July following the resignation of Jim Mattis.