Stephen Elliott ’99 Speaks for Veteran’s Day
by The Milton Measure on Friday, November 11th, 2011
Each year, during the week of Veteran’s Day, Milton invites a guest speaker to address the Upper School. Last year’s speaker was Matthew Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal writer turned Marine. This year Stephen Elliott ’99 was invited to speak to the upper school.
After graduating from Milton, Elliott studied engineering and computer science at Yale University. He entered military service right out of college in 2004 as a commissioned Naval officer and was stationed aboard the USS Henry M. Jackson, a ballistic missile submarine.
He started as an ensign and served in many positions, the last being a Communications Officer. After describing his time at Milton and his experience as a resident in Goodwin House, Elliott discussed the lessons that he learned from his experience: the three M’s, Milton, Military, and Marriage.
He explained that the most significant idea he grasped as a Milton student was “how to ask meaningful questions in search of the truth.” He found Milton to be a place where he could “challenge [his] beliefs and values” for the purpose of learning, and he discovered upon entrance that the military also offered an environment that challenged his morals and convictions.
The military provided many challenges for Elliott. The captain continued by describing some of the failures he had undergone, emphasizing the importance of learning from your mistakes in order to reach success.
He recounted how he had once neglected to check a valve before the submarine dove, resulting in the frying of a $10,000 electrical system.
He also spoke about the epiphany he had reached following a comrade’s death, when he volunteered to interview the victim’s family. Elliot learned that talking about death by providing an outlet for grief was beneficial and cathartic. Through these stories, Elliott tried to instill Milton students with a greater appreciation of the opportunities with which they are provided.
Believing Veteran’s Day to be a day during which one should contemplate his or her values and beliefs, Elliott left the students with a self-reflective question: “What words will you choose to live by, and how will you commit service to others?”
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