General David H. Petraeus

Photo: Getty

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General David H. Petraeus

I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling's "If" via e-mail from a hometown friend early on the morning of September 10, 2007, as I prepared for the first day of what were widely anticipated to be two days of highly charged hearings on the war in Iraq. U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and I were to be the witnesses—and the predictions of the press proved to be true, as the hearings were very emotional and, ultimately, proved quite pivotal. "If" always seemed to capture powerfully the qualities needed in a leader during a tough mission. But in fact those qualities serve anyone well in any pursuit; indeed, I have tried throughout my life to follow Kipling's admonition to "fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds' worth of distance run."
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