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Mattis Speaks At USU On The Importance Of Having An 'Honest View' Of America

Jim Mattis Secretary of Defense on U.S. role in global leadership and at home.
Kat Webb
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said "when I was young, I wanted perfection. And if something wasn't perfect, I'd sink my teeth into it like a dog with a bone and keep shaking around. I'd ignore everything else."

On Tuesday, the former Secretary of Defense spoke to the public at Utah State University about the importance of studying the country’s history — especially for youth.

“I can't emphasize too strongly that we've got to get back to teaching the good, and the bad, and the ugly about America, not just certain things, and have a narrow, parochial view of America," Mattis said. "An honest view of America puts all of it out there."

Mattis said he was given a new reading list to study each time his military rank rose. He said studying history can reveal how people in the past dealt with similar situations.

“It's not that it gives you the answer but it will give you many of the questions,” he said. 

The former Secretary of Defense said these questions are instrumental to identifying the types of problems communities need to solve. An example of an event Mattis said should be more closely examined is the Bear River Massacre — which occurred 157 years ago and just 26 miles away from where the retired general spoke. 

“Here, in this valley, back in 1863, in the Shoshone massacre, we saw where we didn't live up to our higher standards. So we recognize it, we work on it, we make amends, we get better," Mattis said.

Mattis was a guest of USU’s new Center for Anticipatory Intelligence.