March, 27th, 2015, a crowd sat quiet, attentive. David Jolly stood at a podium of cherry wood and black trim, a plaque that featured St. Petersburg College’s blue and white logo peered out at the audience. Jolly, clad in a fine gray suit and blue tie (colors to match his salt and pepper hair), spoke. The day started with the New Ideas Conference, an innovative debate on policy, and the afternoon gave way to Admiral Kirby, former Press Secretary and Keynote Speaker for the conference.
Admiral Kirby, a native born Florida boy from the heart of St. Petersburg, relished his time back in Pinellas County.
“The last time I was here, the school was called St. Petersburg Junior College,” he said, a smile breaking his calm and collected demeanor. A man of few words, but words chosen carefully, Admiral Kirby brought a unique touch to the conference, one of wisdom from a world outside of the United States.
A father, a husband, and a graduate of many degrees – History, International Relations, and National Security and Strategies – Kirby excelled in the Navy. He completed Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, and became a surface warfare officer aboard the USS Aubrey Fitch. Continuing his road to success, Kirby went from the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, as a public affairs office, to the USS Mount Whitney. Securing shore duty, he taught at the U.S Naval Academy and worked with the Blue Angels as their public affairs officer. He went on to become the Press Secretary within the Pentagon.
Moving on from his role as Press Secretary, the doors are wide open for Kirby. “Many options are open to me,” he said, “I have yet to choose one, however.” Kirby stated he had no plans of leaving the service.
“What makes my service worth it is the men and women I work with,” he said, “today, they are the best and brightest they have ever been, from low to high, and being a part of something bigger than myself makes me regret nothing.”
Dressed in his Dress Blues, a dark blue coat cut specifically to his shoulders and torso as well as slim cut blue slacks, he stood straight and tall – a vision of the United States Navy. Upon his chest he wore the ribbons of his success: the red and yellow of National Defense, the blue and white of Global War on Terrorism, the green and orange of Navy Marine Corps Achievement – the list goes on. The man stood at the podium with a story to share. One bred from a military life.
Motivation, leadership, and decision making combined to form the backbone of Kirby’s speech. He fell into a rhythm. He shared stories of military brothers in arms doing their duty and explained how the decision making process works in a military structure. He combed through examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, his personnel life, his father. He maintained the importance of proper critical thinking.
“NDBIT,” he pronounced with finality to a confused crowd, “No decision before its time,” he finished, the audience breaking into applause. Kirby’s motivational words resonated with those he spoke to. The New Ideas Conference meant the sharing of ideas in a free form setting, and Kirby matched his speech perfectly to the ideals of the conference.
Kirby’s message: slow down. In a world of fast pace action and reaction, one with a future no one can predict, take a step back for real and lasting change.
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