A Motivation to Conquer Limitless Heights

Brad Israel, Chief Operating and Leadership Officer of 68 Ventures, shares his personal perspective as a participant in the 2017 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

By participating in the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, I have had the privilege of listening to the incredibly diverse perspectives of my fellow colleagues. We have all experienced or are fighting our own battles with challenges and adversity. I will echo a comparison recently shared with me: take the Latin word for inspire, “inspirare”, meaning, “breathe into”. My PLS colleagues literally breathe life into one another. We breathe renewed life into each other for continued purpose, hope, grit, and accountability so that we can undoubtedly actualize our potential and conquer limitless heights for principled work that long outlives us.

My PLS colleagues literally breathe life into one another. We breathe renewed life into each other for continued purpose, hope, grit, and accountability so that we can undoubtedly actualize our potential and conquer limitless heights for principled work that will long outlive us.

Because of PLS, I am fortunate to get to work on an initiative with Alabama’s first public charter school, ACCEL Day & Evening Academy, where we are creating a leadership curriculum for the at risk, disengaged youth, so they can better understand leadership attributes, actualize their potential, activate their voice, and become force multipliers in their communities. The PLS program afforded me the feedback needed to narrow my focus, facilitate introductions that paved the path for the partnerships created, and push me every step of the way through our planning of the framework. We will roll out leadership workshops with the Preparation (11th grade) & ACCEL (12th grade) this fall and intend to launch a weekly leadership elective for the fall curriculum of 2018.

During the program, I had the honor of sitting two seats away from my former Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. I deeply admired him as my President because I knew he was principled, possessed the highest degree of integrity, and made decisions with a genuine heart in the best interest of our Nation. He truly loves and believes in people, and it is apparent to anyone who has spent time around him.

I have absolute confidence that these individuals are going to continue to challenge the status quo, advance their spheres of influence from good to great, and determined to never settle and to never stop.
President Bush participated in a Classroom Session with Presidential Leadership Scholars at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. Photo by Grant Miller for the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

While visiting the George W. Bush Presidential Center we learned how President Bush ran his campaign on education reform and was elected because of the platform that became the No Child Left Behind Act. During difficult times, President Bush said, “you play your best hand of the cards you are dealt.” That is exactly what he did when the September 11 attacks occurred. It was a monumental pivot in his presidency and our Nation’s history and I believed in him to lead us. This is why I made the commitment to serve and pay it forward as so many other patriots had done for me. Our motto as Green Berets is, “De Oppresso Liber”, which means “Free the Oppressed”. We dedicated our lives to this devotion just as our Commander-in-Chief had. Now he lives out his legacy by being one of the most influential leaders for our veterans, branding us as having a “PhD in life”, committing his purpose to serving, and supporting those who chose to wear the uniform.

Presidential Leadership Scholars were joined by Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell for a classroom discussion at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo by Grant Miller for the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

These snapshots are representative of what we were exposed to and discussed throughout the program. We were reminded that there are no simple solutions to complex problems and the decisions Presidents must make are not always ones they want to have to make. President Clinton’s told us we can choose to be bitter or better through our experiences and because of that, we can be the victim or the survivor and advocate. This advice is a disciplined mindset we should all seek to maintain. Secretary Sylvia Burwell emphasized the importance of focusing on the outcomes and not the outputs, defining with clarity the the importance of prioritization, and how we can never say thank you enough. We learned about President Clinton’s gifted ability to exercise empathy, to remain focused on the agenda even when the UFOs (unforeseen occurrences) emerge. We heard from Press Secretary Dana Perino on how President Bush ran his team, how he got to know everyone personally and genuinely displayed how much he cared for them, and how he taught her about forgiveness in life.

Secretary Andy Card described President George H. W. Bush as being the master of ambidextrous leadership. He could adapt to the norms of any specific culture and adjust his leadership approach to the situation, just like he could when befriending individuals on both sides of the aisle. We had an inside account of President Johnson’s Presidency and the courage it took to stay the course with the Civil Rights Act. He did a monumental job of building alliances and exercising his power of persuasion to accomplish his intent. Having the opportunity to listen to the tape recordings of the historical transformations that occurred during very intense times will be etched in my memory forever.

Presidential Leadership Scholars gather at The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. Photo by Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

After getting to know and form friendships with so many of my PLS colleagues, I have absolute confidence that these individuals are going to continue to challenge the status quo, advance their spheres of influence from good to great, and determined to never settle and to never stop. They have faith in their abilities and a resounding peace of mind knowing they have a unique unit of peers that will support them, but at the same time hold them accountable. Graduating from this program is not for the photo with the President Bush and President Clinton, but rather your admittance in to a distinguished team of achievers that share a lifetime commitment to positively impact lives, communities, and beyond.


Brad Israel, Chief Operating and Leadership Officer, 68 Ventures, is working with Alabama’s first tuition-free public charter school, ACCEL Day & Evening Academy, to establish a leadership curriculum for the at-risk, disengaged youth so that they can better understand leadership attributes, actualize their potential, and become force multipliers in their communities.

For more information about PLS, please visit the website and follow us on Twitter@PLSprogram.