DNI Haines' As-Delivered Remarks at National Intelligence University Convocation Ceremony, 25 August 2023

DNI Haines' As-Delivered Remarks at National Intelligence University Convocation Ceremony, 25 August 2023


Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines

Remarks As Delivered

National Intelligence University Convocation Ceremony

Bethesda, Maryland

August 25, 2023


Patty, thank you – it is truly an honor for Stacey and I to be here today alongside the leadership of NIU, its impressive faculty and terrific students at the beginning of a new academic year.


I also want to take the time to recognize those who made this moment possible, especially NIU’s extraordinary President for a half-dozen years, Dr. Scott Cameron.


Scott is an ODNI plank holder, a lovely human being, and a leader who is deeply devoted to the Intelligence Community, its people, and our country. For all that you have done in service to the Community -- and all that you have yet to do -- thank you so very much, Scott.


I would also like to express my appreciation to NIU’s Board of Visitors for their role in securing the future of NIU at this important moment in its history, particularly its Chair, Gilman Louie.


Each member of NIU’s Board, with their diverse perspectives and remarkable insights and expertise, represent the spirit at the heart of NIU, which will soon be officially led by Dr. John Ballard – another trailblazer who will safeguard this special institution and lead us into the future.


It seems appropriate to formally install Dr. Ballard – our new President – at the same time that we convene our students here for the start of their academic journey.


Beginnings hold such promise and this moment of transition for NIU is no exception, as we inaugurate, initiate, and launch a new chapter in the lives and careers of our students, Dr. Ballard, and so many others who are now a part of this vital institution, which sits at the crossroads of public service and learning.


In 1910, former President Teddy Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Sorbonne – a famous university in France. The story goes that the amphitheater was jam-packed with professors and politicians, ministers of state and navy officers in full regalia, nearly a thousand students and an additional two thousand ticket-holders. In that speech, Roosevelt articulated a powerful vision of education that was entirely intertwined with citizenship – in fact the name of the speech is Citizenship in a Republic, and in so many ways, I think NIU is the model of what he had in mind.


Roosevelt spoke of the challenge of democracies and that our “success or failure” is conditioned upon the way in which the average man and woman does his or her duty – that “the average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed . . . . and that the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.”


Those standards are set in institutions like this one, which is consciously focused on inculcating the next generation of leaders for our Community. We trust you to build our future.


I believe that universities have a special role to play in democratic societies. They carry forward human culture and knowledge from one generation to the next, add to that knowledge and culture as it passes along, and develop and apply standards of excellence for measuring what deserves to be included in that body of thought to be transmitted. Moreover, from the particular, somewhat detached perspective they occupy, they can also serve as an important critic of society.


Universities are also, wonderfully, communities that value and express joy in intellectually and creatively exploring the world to better understand – and revel – in its complexity. Not unlike the Intelligence Community – but that is in many ways, just the beginning.


I would say that we – the intelligence community and academia -- share a belief in rigor, expertise, evidence-driven analysis and the value of insights that allow leaders to make better decisions. But one of our great challenges in the IC is that the classified and pressured nature of our work can make us susceptible to group think.


Consequently, interactions with those outside of our Community to test our hypotheses are absolutely critical to our success and here, you have an environment that allows you to do just that even with respect to our classified work.


We need you to contest our thinking and even your own thinking – to test our fundamental assumptions, draw attention to questions or perspectives we have not considered, and learn from those outside of our traditional circles to make sure we are in fact serving our government and country as best we can.


Yet NIU is special – not only are you here to learn but also to apply that knowledge. You must test us, but not simply remain on the sidelines. One of the most famous passages in Roosevelt’s speech is often referred to as the Man in the Arena – and it speaks to the courage that you all require to succeed in public service. He said:


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


Part of what I’ve always taken from this passage is the importance of failing. Perhaps that is an odd thing to say at the start of a new academic year, when we often stress the opportunity for success.


Yet all of you are high achievers and in your classrooms and research, you will learn from some of the most talented, capable, and experienced practitioners and researchers in your field of study and it will be important that you take, in a sense, mental risks during this time – worry less about whether you are right, fight the cynicism that often crystalizes in all of us as we get older, and instead try to see the issues you have been focused on from a completely different perspective.


Take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with fellow students and educators from across the national security enterprise and help us shape the IC’s culture into what it should be, so that we can benefit from integrated collaboration across our community in ways that allow us to meet the extraordinarily challenging and complex threat picture we face today.


We are in the arena, and I cannot tell you how proud I am to be here with all of you – even as I am closer to the exit. But watching you take it on, inspires me -- knowing that you will not be afraid to take the risks required to make us better matters.


So, I have talked about the importance of critical thinking and of risking failure to make us better but I also want to touch on ethics, values, and Diversity.


I have no doubt that you understand that in addition to the great learning that you do here, you are also here to be great citizens. To ensure that there is truth and integrity in our work and our discourse, so as to live up to the promise of the idea that our society was founded on – government by, of, and for the people.


That your education must also be grounded in ethics and wisdom and that in doing so you help us to build a Community and culture where we bring together the great diversity that exists throughout the IC and our country to learn from one another, share our knowledge, and make us better at protecting the nation.


As one of my favorite authors – Alice Walker – said: “Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.”


I have big dreams and I imagine all of you do too.


On behalf of the entire Intelligence Community, thank you for choosing NIU and for accepting this challenge, and good luck to all of you as you begin this extraordinary journey.


You are our next generation of leaders in the IC, and I ask that you keep the standards high.


The Installation of Dr. Ballard


Now it is my privilege to ask Dr. Ballard to join me at the podium for his invocation.


Over the 60 years of NIU’s history it has been transformed: but perhaps no more so than in the last few years. In that time, NIU moved to ICC-B, weathered COVID-19, and officially transitioned to ODNI. Throughout this process the relationship with every element that makes up our Intelligence Community has deepened.


Today, the institution that Dr. Ballard will now lead is set up for even greater success and progress: to fulfill a shared vision of mission integration that has enhanced our individual and collective capabilities, and to continue and expand upon NIU’s commitment to prepare the IC’s future leaders.


The work of our Community has changed dramatically over the years, and will continue to evolve. Under Dr. Ballard’ leadership, NIU will enrich that work and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders of the IC to meet the future and make it better. I look forward to supporting him in this work.


But to do so, we have to get him formally in the job!


I now have the honor to install Dr. Ballard as the fourth president and the 19th executive leader of the Intelligence Community’s university.


“By the authority vested in me by the United States Congress, I do hereby install you, John R. Ballard, as the President of the National Intelligence University, with effect from the 31st day of July 2023.”


It is my privilege to officially welcome you to NIU and ODNI.