"I hope, in line with what I know Gilman does so well, to encourage all of you to seek out lives of service, whatever service or path that takes, service for others, service for your communities, service for your country," shared U.S. Marine Corps Captain James "Jay" Stuart Brooks '10 when he spoke at Upper School Assembly on Friday, November 10, 2023. "When I was starting in the military, I remember the first challenges in leadership that I actually had to face. I thought of my time here in sports. I thought of my time at the Old Gym, losing points to Calvert Hall in volleyball and having all my friends yell from the stands. I thought about the leaders, teachers, and mentors that I had here that pushed me. One being Boo Smith, who challenged me to lead a squash team of players much more talented than I was. Another being Coach Wally, who tried to get me to forget my mistakes on the golf course, move past them, and not let mistakes be my destiny."
In assembly and small group discussion that followed, Captain Brooks, who served in the USMC as a scout sniper platoon commander, intelligence officer, and counter-propaganda mission lead, shared observations and lessons from his distinguished military career. Captain Brooks is currently pursuing a dual MD/MPH at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and he also answered some questions about public health policy and affairs.
"I think we have reason to be optimistic in light of everything going on in the world because all of us can choose to be open-minded. We can choose to try to see from other people's perspectives. We can have the humility to understand we're not always right and that any solution we think of is not always obvious and clear-cut. And if we do that, that is the only way I think we can avoid war. But I know that we can do that and avoid the tragedy that comes with war," shared Captain Brooks in his closing remarks. "I can say with certainty that the most important things I'll ever do in my life and work came from my time in service in the Marines. And I know that if anyone seeks out service in any capacity, not just the military, that the gifts you get from service and perspective and empathy and humility and compassion and fulfillment of doing, everything you get from that, you will also be able to say the most impactful thing you do in your lives is in service to others."
In 2021, Captain Brooks returned to Gilman as a faculty member in the Upper School History Department, where he taught a co-ed senior elective titled "Perspectives in Modern War," which examined the role of self-awareness and decision-making in the landscapes of modern war, from the deserts of the Middle East to cyberspace, and analyzed how those lessons apply to life in and out of the military. He later turned this teaching experience into a book, "Leadership in Modern War: From WW2 to the War Against ISIS," which was published by Pen & Sword Books in spring 2023.