The keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Jason W. Fryman, a native of Acworth who recently returned from Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
He currently serves as a Brigade Operations officer for the 78th Aviation Troop Command of the Georgia National Guard. He was involved in military humanitarian efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Horizons in the Dominican Republic and for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Fryman received the Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.
He was introduced by George Chip, coordinator of student support for the Douglas County School System, with whom Fryman was deployed in Iraq.
Fryman told the crowd the military training exercises are to push soldiers to the limit – to be overwhelming – and forces them to fail for the lessons that can be learned.
“There’s not a whole lot of lessons in success,” said Fryman. “There is a lot to learn in failures.”
He encouraged the group made up of students, educators, business and community leaders not to be passive, meek or unassertive.
“Be the ‘young lion’ that commands the experience,” he said. “Put yourself out there and take those chances because you will learn more from your failures than from your successes.
“Stand for something,” he urged. “In order to stand for something you’ve got to stand on something. Every individual defines values within themselves and it’s the ones that resonate with you that guide you into what you’re going to become.”
As a company commander, he said he endured losses and had to deal with intense situations, which helped him define success. These he called his “crucible experiences.”
He said one of the most reliable indicators of leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in the traumatic experiences.
The crowd also heard from Steven White, a senior at the Performance Learning Center, who spoke on “integrity.”
He was recognized as one of 30 students statewide to have been selected for an all-expense trip to New York City as a student ambassador.
The Boy Scout Explorer spoke about reality television, where people are followed by cameras all day.
White asked the audience, “What would you do when no one was watching?”
He added, “Never do anything that will damage your integrity.”