Augusta Business Daily

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Thoughts from the General: Surrounded by excellence, insights from Emory University

Perry M. Smith, Jr.

Next month, I will have the pleasure of teaching executive leadership at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. These Emory scholars are pursuing a Master of Business Administration at one of the highest-ranking business schools in the world.

The following is feedback from a similar session which was conducted last year. During the question-and-answer period, I realized that I was surrounded by amazing folks—most of whom were smarter than me. The questions were sharp. No one chose to give a mini-speech.

Professor Jeff Rosensweig was my host. Jeff has been listed as one of the ten best Professor of Business Administration in the country. He attracts students of the highest caliber.

Let me share with you some of the questions I received along with the answers I gave.

Q: General, how do you manage to stay so active and involved at age 87?

A: “The blessings of good health, a wonderful marriage, a supportive wife and family, close friendships, and the opportunity to interact often with smart folks like you.”

Q: What are your favorite books?

A: I recommended two. Give and Take and Think Again both written by Adam Grant. I urged them to read at least one book per month so they could gain the intellectual depth they need in order to make major contributions on the job.

Gen. Smith served as a military analyst for CNN from 1991 until 1998.
Q: Please tell us why you resigned from CNN.

A: In 1998, CNN did something that was really bad. In a TV special, CNN accused the U.S. military of war crimes in an operation in 1970 during the Vietnam War. I tried to stop this TV special from going on air and later tried to get CNN to retract it. I failed in both endeavors. When I resigned, I told the president of CNN that I would never again work for CNN. To the Emory students, I explained that CNN had no leadership training, no ethics training, and none of the safeguards that might have prevented such a debacle. I also explained how I reached out to my “ethics brain trust,” which included Colin Powell, before I made my decision to quit.

Q: How did you balance your life between the demands of your job and your family and personal needs?

A: I explained that as a speed reader, I was able to get through my daily paperwork quickly. This allowed me to get out to spend time away from my office and out with the troops. I also scheduled my family for many of my activities. Finally, I tried to get rid of the “junk” in my life such as spending too much time watching sports on TV. My technique is to turn on the game in the second half. If the score is close, I watch until the end. If the game is a blow away, I turn off the TV and dive into a good book. Also, I no longer play golf. My game was terrible, and a round of golf was taking me away from my family for long periods of time. Tennis, which I played for 70 years, worked better for me.

Gen. Smith said the Goizueta business students were smart and asked great questions after his lecture.

Upon driving home from Atlanta that day, I felt that my presentation may have had an impact—at least for some of them.

On April 20, 2023, I will conduct two workshops at Emory. One for the scholars in the MBA program and another for the undergrads who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Every scholar will receive a signed copy of either my leadership book, Rules and Tools for Leaders or my recently published autobiography, Listen Up: Stories from Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Pentagon, CNN and Beyond. 

Perry Smith’s email address is

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