“We all knew what we were doing the day and morning of Sept. 11,” Tom Ridge began.
Speaking in the Jordan Auditorium in Mendoza on the weekend of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Ridge offered a presentation that fittingly tied both business and national security.
Ridge, whose many titles have included the governor of Pennsylvania and Secretary of Homeland Security, now serves as president and CEO of Ridge Global, LLC.
“Everyone in the organization has value,” he said. “All work has dignity.”
Addressing leadership, Ridge informed students on the importance of communication skills and the importance of not only knowing, but also being able to articulate one’s mission statement.
“Titles get compliance,” he said. “Leaders get commitments.”
In addition to leadership, brand name also transcends the fields of business and national security.
“Notre Dame has a brand … America has a brand as well. It’s our value system,” Ridge said. “We have to be consistent with [our value system]. The rest of the world is watching.”
Ridge explained that America does not always abide by its value system. This is perhaps most evident in the recent controversy over Guantanamo Bay. While recognizing the complexities of the situation, Ridge said he believes the prison’s occupants are entitled to due process.
Yet, despite America’s shortcomings, Ridge maintains a positive and optimistic view of the nation he loves.
“I can say to you in good faith that we have been true to our values,” Ridge said. “Americans live in freedom. We don’t live in fear … People all over the world still love the idea of America.”
In part, the idea of America involves risks, he said. In a way similar to that of a business, America must manage its risks.
Ridge invoked images of the first pioneers, the lunar landings and the millions of American servicemen and women as examples of American risk-takers.
“America has always had risk management — we’re a country of risk-takers,” he said. “We manage our risks.”
When answering audience questions, Ridge expanded upon previous answers and addressed other new topics, including the relationship between the economy and national security, the challenge of cooperation between national agencies and the need for a more effective use of America’s soft power.
“[My proudest accomplishment is that] I’ve been given that many opportunities and my service was valued,” he said.
Ridge said homeland security has an objective to secure and preserve freedom — including religious expression.
“Complacency [is the single greatest danger to national security] — the notion that as time elapse we forgot that we are at war with a belief system and leaders of a belief system who patient and persistent.”