Eat Last

I lived with my grandmother during my early childhood years. She was the matriarch of our caring, interdependent family, and she set the tone and values of our home. She was the wise woman everyone searched out for advice. The kitchen was the center of activity, and there were always tempting aromas of a meal in progress. She cooked for us, served us, and she would always EAT LAST — after ensuring everyone's needs were met. So imagine my surprise when I read that my grandmother shares this, and other leadership traits with the Generals that President-elect Trump recently appointed to office.

Here’s the article that caught my eye:


“America is about to be exposed to some new and extraordinary leadership traits. With Generals Mattis (Defense Secretary), Dunford (Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security) nominated to high positions, the spotlight will be on the Marine Corps and their culture. This means Marine leadership styles, principles, and traits will soon become apparent.

“SELFLESS LEADERSHIP,” will become a leadership buzz term. Americans will soon find out that all three of these gentlemen have one thing in common; they EAT LAST. Why is this important? Officers eat last to set precedence that their Marines come first...   An officer is expected to serve his men and women, to lead them and to keep them safe, not the other way around.” — Chris Bolender Capt USMC (Retired)

Selfless leadership is a good description of how my grandmother governed our household. Each member of our multi-generational family had different needs and different schedules. There were rules to help the large number of us function peacefully and efficiently in our crowded one-bathroom house.  She taught us how to work together as a team, at the same time as she led us to be strong, compassionate individuals. Her selfless leadership served us well.

If my grandmother was chosen to serve as Defense Secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Secretary of Homeland Security, I would feel confident that the country is in strong hands. According to marine culture, she would be selected based on demonstrated capability, and trained by experts employed in the organization she was to serve. Competent and caring, she would complete her mission of selfless service to her constituents — we the people, and I have confidence that even in her new role she would always eat last.

When I picture generals, I see them in war rooms and on the battlefield, rather than at the dinner table checking in with their constituents — perhaps I'm shortsighted. The father of our country, George Washington, was the first of many generals to lead our nation, so why doubt General James Mattis, General Joseph Dunford, and General John Kelly? Let's respect their experience and service to our country as selfless leaders. But let's also watch to see if they continue to EAT LAST.