The end of WWII was a time of great opportunity for the United States. America had emerged as a global superpower as other countries grappled for their own post-war growth.
For General George Olmsted, who oversaw the Allied supply chain throughout Southeast Asia during the war, the key to America’s future global influence came from watching Mao Zedong negotiate with Allied leaders. Mao’s fluency in English and command of foreign cultural norms gave him a strategic advantage over his counterparts.
General Olmsted watched this advantage play out again and again during his international business deals after the war and stoked his inspiration to create the Olmsted Foundation and the Olmsted Scholar Program.
The Olmsted Scholar Program’s impact on the leadership skills of US military officers has been called “the most valuable training an officer could choose” and “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Olmsted Scholars are already strong leaders and overachievers. They graduate near the top of their class, excel in athletics and achieve mastery within their military assignments. For them, the Olmsted experience is a new challenge, a higher peak to summit.
But unlike any challenge they’ve ever faced, Scholars begin their Olmsted experience at the bottom and must rebuild themselves from the ground up by learning a new language, and overcoming even the simplest challenges of daily life in a foreign culture. This process has humbled even the most decorated Scholars and proves to be an enormously beneficial learning and leadership experience.
As Scholars rise to this challenge, immerse themselves in the culture and people around them, their struggles fade and they begin to see the world through a wider lens.
After their two years abroad, Scholars resume positions of leadership in the military with a higher degree of confidence and a broader perspective. They anticipate differences others don’t see and identify unexpected possibilities. They unearth insights that lead to opportunities and options others can’t.
As Scholars continue to work their way up the operations chain, the power of the Olmsted experience grows stronger. Faced with more strategic, complex and urgent problems, Scholars become more confident decision makers.
To see some of the successes achieved by our Scholars, please take a look at the featured Scholars on the following pages.