Fort Gordon Commanding General Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson had an hour to inspire students at the Columbia County Alternative School on Friday.
The speaker at the Grovetown school’s Character Development Assembly, Patterson touched on a handful of topics, including education and respect.
“I think one of the jobs of the folks of my generation and as a leader in the military, is to help mentor, coach and build for the future and prepare our kids for the challenges and demands of the 21st century,” said Patterson. “This is something I enjoy doing. It’s not a chore.”
He infused his message with a mix of self-deprecation and light-heartedness. After being introduced by student assembly coordinator Tulaysha Fluellen, Patterson joked about the number of ribbons the sophomore was wearing on her JROTC uniform from Lakeside High School.
School principal Dr. Ja’net Bishop thought that Fluellen getting to wear her uniform at all was appropriate and special.
Patterson talked about his upbringing and people like Missy Elliot, Nathan McCall and Carl Brashear living as he did in the projects in Portsmouth, Va. He said he wasn’t perfect, and made some bad choices growing up, but he eventually figured out the path he needed to take.
“I didn’t take education seriously until my junior year in college (Norfolk State) when I saw my friends were, by grades, still freshmen level,” Patterson said. “I said I’ve got to cut those guys loose and I started taking my grades seriously. I graduated with a much better GPA than I could have hoped for.”
Patterson found what he wanted to do.
“I knew that when I joined the military – I didn’t know I’d be a general one day and I didn’t know how long I’d stay,” said Patterson, who is in his 31st year in the Army. “I knew that joining the military was my passion and I had decided from day one I was going to stay as long as I was welcome and wanted.”
What resonated with Fluellen is what Bishop hoped the students would take away from Patterson’s presentation.
“I got out of it, ‘find your passion,’” said Fluellen. “You can make yourself do what you love and that education is the key to success in life.”