Meeting General Petraeus

General Petraeus shaking hands with Xandy Cimatu

Walking into the Marines Memorial Theatre to meet Lt. General Petraeus seemed a bit surreal. A group of stern looking secret servicemen dressed in crisp suits guarded all entrances and exits. 

Although very good looking and distracting, the secret service men were not there to befriend the students nor myself, but to defend Lt. General Petraeus if necessary. An employee told us to walk upstairs into the waiting area for the Crystal Room, where we would get the chance to take a group picture with the general before the question and answer period in the Gold Room. 

The group of us walked into the formally decorated room and waited about 15 minutes for the general to arrive.  As we waited the secret servicemen peeked into the room every so often to see who the slight commotion was coming from.  Once they realized the anticipation for the general was coming from a group of students the secret servicemen eased their suspicions of actual harmful characters. We were told that we would take the picture with the general positioned front and center while standing because Petraeus prefers to stand as opposed to sitting. Once we received these directions Petraeus entered the room, guided by one of his assistants. 

As Petraeus entered the room it was as if everyone had lost their breath and was suddenly consumed by his charisma and warm smile. Petraeus then took a few moments to go around the room shake everyone’s hand. He somehow forgot he already shook my hand while going around the room and I was lucky enough to shake his hand twice. 

We then took a few pictures for the three photographers, one from the World Affairs Council, second from the Marines Memorial Theatre and another photographer from Cent Comm.  Immediately after we took the pictures the general was ushered off into the Gold Room to await the question and answer period.  Soon enough we walked into the Gold Room where Petraeus was comfortably seated in the front. 

The students and myself filed in and reviewed the questions we had prepared for meeting him.  The general took us by surprise and randomly called on people to ask their question.  By my surprise he called on me first, where I asked if he felt that a commander in chief who has military experience has an advantage while in office. The general replied and said that while military experience may be useful it does not necessarily give the president an extreme advantage. 

He then furthered his response by stating that decisions made by the president ultimately come down to information given by intelligence, facts, truth and the president’s gut instinct. Throughout all of Petraeus’ responses to the students’ questions he repeatedly stated that at the end of the day political affiliation, ideologies, experience do not matter; however, do contribute to an ultimate decision. What matters is a person’s credibility and their knowledge on a given matter. Both he said, take enormous amounts of time and are not easily given.

After meeting Lt. General Petraeus I felt more at ease with the military’s aspirations for the current wars. Although that may be difficult for some to come to terms with, Petraeus was genuine and admittedly stated he’s going by knowledge, not outdated, unrealistic beliefs. At the end of the day his position is a job and inevitable he may make decisions that not everyone will agree upon. This was especially evident during the question and answer period while Petraeus could hear the protestors outside the window.

Only time may tell what will be the end result of his decisions while having the position of US Central Command. I am glad to know that the person overseeing our country’s military plans is genuine, intelligent and completely aware of both sides of the political spectrum.

Xandy Cimatu, Political Science major, Class of 2010