In 1924, Mallory tried to climb Everest a third time, and to this day, no one knows if he made it. His frozen body was recovered in a ravine seventy-five years later––sun-bleached and mummified. Regardless of whether he reached the top, he died doing what he loved––pushing the limits of impossibility at Earth’s extremes. His death was a unique kind of martyrdom––a martyrdom that I have enormous respect for.
I firmly believe that no one enters this world with that type of monumental fortitude, in the same way that no one has ever been born a leader, because the strongest leaders, like the tallest mountains, emerge from the application of pressure, heat, and stress over time. Groton is like a tectonic plate boundary, and while some of my peers may disagree with me, I stand by Roosevelt’s doctrine of the strenuous life too––the “life of toil and effort, of labor and strife.” The hard times, wrought with late nights, major commitments, and frequent mistakes, challenge us, but it is our resilience––our leadership in times of trial and tribulation––that defines who we are, and who we are going to be. It is our attitude that can render us Herculean.
In Alaska, home was always a place where the only thing more rugged than the mountains were those that lived in their shadows, and where a temperature of forty below might cancel recess, but not class. I was raised in a society of pioneers—by those who stared into the abyss of improbability and never let the odds phase them. Ever since the age of five, I have looked up to those Alaskans. They are my heroes.
In 2007, Dad was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, so we moved from Sacramento to Palmer to begin our Alaskan adventure. Within the first week, however, our expectations for life in the Last Frontier—borrowed from the Discovery channel—were upended. Survival meant studded tires, snow shovels, and having enough Sockeye in the freezer to last through the winter; we had been led astray by reality television.