General George William Steven Read
March 28, 2019. 3 hours with interview, 2.5 hours painting from life.
April 8, 2019. 2 hours painting and talking, taped.
A few extra hours of painting the medals on his uniform
ER: What is your favorite saying/quote?
SR: “Know the way, show the way, go the way. “
Interesting to note that the selected quote in Steve’s high school yearbook was, “Give me an audience, I am about to speak!”
ER: Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you call home?
SR: I was born in New Brunswick NJ and grew up Lenox MA. I call Coral Springs home. My dad was in the Army so my family lived in Orleans, France among other places.
ER: Where are your parents/grandparents from? How did they influence you today? (big question)
SR: Grandfather Read was killed in WW1. My Grandmother remarried and moved away without my Dad. My Dad lived for 11 yrs in the Rectory of Trinity Episcopal Church with the Rector in Lenox, MA.
My maternal grandfather was a very skinny accountant. He loved to smoke Pall Mall cigarettes (without a filter) and eat Hershey bars.
My dad was an enlisted man in the Army. He showed me how to be a great officer.
ER: What is your heritage (ethnicity)?
SR: English and Dutch
ER: Why do you live here? How did you get here?
SR: I was transferred by 3 M. I managed surgical products for hospitals.
ER: Do you speak another language?
SR: I hate speaking Spanish because of my teacher at Rutgers.
The regrets…. not learning how to speak Spanish. The teacher was a strict Castilian Spanish teacher. Nothing seemed to please him. His manner turned me off to learning Spanish learning and speaking forever. To my great regret.
ER: What is your favorite color?
ER: Do you have a pet(s)?
SR: We have a very fat cat named Sampson. My family has had dachsunds throughout the years. The weiner dogs were named, “Duke,” after John Wayne and the Duchess.
ER: Do you have children/grandchildren? How many? How old are they? Tell us about them.
SR: Erin is 43 and a youth director at her church in Ft. Lauderdale. Stephie is 39 and works for Dell in Texas. Because of their Christian upbringing, both women are strong advocates for the youth in their churches.
My grandchildren are Aidan, Kenton, Penelope and Celia. Aidan is an incredible actor and in the Cambridge pre-law program. Kenton is a LaCrosse, soccer and football player and is doing extremely well in school. Penelope is president of the second grade because she makes good speeches and Celia is just starting to play soft ball and soccer.
Steve has a beautiful family full of love and support rooted in strong Christian discipline.
ER: What is your passion? What are you doing when you are most happy?
Do you have a mission? A reason for doing that which is your passion?
SR: My mission is to organize meaningful organizations that help people. Now that I is retired, I am active in Episcopal Charities. I help fund St, Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church by organizing “The Vine,” a perpetual giving program. Episcopal Charities fed 325,000 hungry people last year as well as supplying school lunches and after school care. They are the first to arrive after hurricanes with food, water and manpower to clean up the disastrous mess.
I am the Director of Military Outreach support to the National Guard and Reserve. This organization helps veterans find employment and resolves any conflicts.
ER: What is / was your profession? Is this profession what you were meant to do? Why?
SR: I am a two star Major General in the Army. I earned a BA degree in Economics at Rutgers University and a masters degree in strategic studies from the Army War College in Carlisle PA. I also worked for 3M Corporation managing surgical products throughout Florida.
Artist’s Note: The medals Steve wears on his uniform are symbols of his incredible life. On his chest he proudly wears the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Commendation Medal with oak leaf, Artillery Officer of the Ninth Field Artillery Regiment among many others. Steve told me that he is the most proud of the Humanitarian Service Medal awarded for organizing the task force relief sent to South Florida after hurricane Andrew. His troops arrived with water, food and help to clean up what was left. Steve said he was proud to help Americans after his efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Haiti and El Salvador.
As a two star general, Steve was responsible for the readiness of the Army reserve after 9-11. He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq multiple times to assess our military manpower and training needs. In retirement Steve is the Director of Military Outreach Support to the National Guard and Reserve. He is the President of the Scholarship selection committee for Junior ROTC.
ER: What are you really good at doing? Why?
SR: I am really good at building teams. I love big projects.
ER: What do you do that might change the world? Why?
SR: My continuing projects with the Army and my work with Episcopal Charitites.
ER: What makes you feel like part of a community? Why?
SR: Helping other people.
ER: What is the most interesting thing you have ever done?
SR: Assembling atomic artillery shells. This work is extremely technical and precise.
ER: What is your greatest accomplishment?
SR: My greatest accomplishment has been to make sure my children know Christ and manifest this through the choices they make. This accomplishment presides over all of my medals.
ER: What are your regrets?
SR: Not learning how to type. Not learning how to speak Spanish.
ER: What are your struggles?
SR: My greatest struggle is deciding what cruise to take!
ER: What are your greatest adventures? Wow, what a question to ask this guy, huh?
SR: In Afghanistan I survived an attempt on my life in an armored SUV. I was targeted because I am a General.
The El Salvador incidence.
The country was in the middle of a civil war. The police were enemies of the Army. I was with a group that stopped for gas at a station with a store, I was guarded by an MP with a pistol. The Police and the military men outside started fighting and they carried rifles. I couldn’t speak Spanish so I could not negotiate. One soldier in the party talked the fighters out of killing us all.
The next year I was invited to join the Ambassador in dedicating a new hospital. The ambassador could not make it at the last minute so I had to present the speech. I did not speak Spanish. Harry Velasquez, a 19 year old from Boston Mass. stepped up to interpret for me. I was so grateful that I granted young Harry his wish of flying in a helicopter. When the powers that be gave me resistance about bending the rules for a joy ride, I gave them “the General Stare!” Harry Velasquez was duly rewarded.
Interesting notes from our discussion while painting
These are the three goals of leadership that Steve shared with me.
ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION
HEAR THE SOUND OF THE GUNS
BUILD THE ORGANIZATION
ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION. Always place the mission first.
HEAR THE SOUND OF THE GUNS. This is important to every organization whether it be the military, church, school or a company. There are certain things that you might think get in the way of accomplishing your mission, If you don’t accomplish those things, someone from the government or management is going to come and help you accomplish therm.
Such as… when they say, “We want to improve the appearance of our soldiers.” Pay attention! Make sure someone is watching over the haircuts. Somebody’s going to come down and explain to you why you have to get the haircuts done. They will take up your time, bust your chops and its not going to be nice. This gets in the way of your mission.
IT WAS COMMUNICATED TO THEM EVERY WEEK. What is the sound of the guns saying today?
BUILD THE ORGANIZATION! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
As a strong leader you must fill positions as you move up the ranks. Make sure you are placing new people in a positions of authority so they are getting the experience to know what to do next time around. This comes to you later in your career when you realize “I am much closer to the end than the beginning.“ What is the legacy that I intend to leave?
21 of Steve’s people have been selected for General Officers and 48 have become Command Sargent Majors. That is building an organization.
Thoughts about strategy.
I was always preparing myself for the next position in the military. I observed what worked and made mental notes. By the time I had a chance at a new position,I had a good idea about what worked. I was always watching for the next leadership position. “Hear the sound of the guns!”
I had multiple units that were completely different. One was computer experts dealing with information operations. They defended the DOD network and the network in Afghanistan. I had a group of Lawyers and accountants. I had people that supported the combat and command. I had people who supported transportation. in other words, many different specialties. There is not always one direction you can go. What my job was to facilitate their success, to clear obstacles. All units were commanded by a colonel or a brigadier general. My job was to make it easier for them,. Make sure they had the money, had the assets that they needed to do a great job. Make sure they had the proper training or the ability to get the proper training. I wrote a document saying that my job was to facilitate their success. Clear cut.
Steve’s gun story.
General Officers are issued a side arm, a nine millimeter pistol. This special gun is especially made for General Officers. It is a nine millimeter berreta engraved with General Officer and the serial number 1776. General officer’s pistols are collectors items. The number 1776 makes it very valuable. He keeps this treasure locked in a safe. Steve doesn’t keep any other guns in his home.
Steve doesn’t sing in church because he says he can’t carry a tune. He is hummmming. He said he doesn’t ever sing. I know why now. I assumed he was just a macho military guy. Façade busted.