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PHILLIPS KIRKLAND DINNER

REMARKS PREPARED FOR

MARK H. BUZBY

MARITIME ADMINISTRATOR

PHILLIPS KIRKLAND DINNER

WESTIN HOTEL NATIONAL HARBOR

171 WATERFRONT STREET, NATIONAL HARBOR, MD

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2019

 

Thank you and good evening – great to be among a gathering of the maritime family.

 

I was in a meeting with Secretary Chao literally just before coming over here this afternoon and she asked me to pass on her greetings to you all. She’s been a huge supporter of the maritime industry, and Friday night she was made an “admiral of the ocean seas” at the united Seaman’s Service Dinner in New York City. It was a great evening.

 

As I told her: “now we have two admirals in the department of transportation, ma’am!” … and when I didn’t get much of a response I quickly added: and, of course, you’ll be the senior admiral ma’am!” That got a smile and I didn’t get fired over the weekend…so I think I’m good.

 

Klaus and Wendi: thank you for inviting me to join you all this evening for this opportunity to celebrate the lifetime contributions of some great Americans: Captain Steve Werse, and the late First Assistant Engineer Jay Corcoran.

 

Steve: congratulations on this most prestigious recognition of your amazing career – at sea and ashore – leading mariners.

 

I’ve known Steve for quite a few years, but I had been hearing about him for many more, mostly from those who had the good fortune to be his shipmates. I learned some time ago that to be “werse trained” was a highly-coveted moniker.

 

I’m very proud of my service at sea and total time that I’ve spent afloat, but Steve Werse? Well, he has more time “underway at sea backing down at night with right full rudder” than I have afloat! I wish I had had the opportunity to sail under Steve’s command.

 

As a fellow Jersey boy and anchor clanker, Steve, I’m so proud to be in the same room tonight as we recognize all you’ve done to further the American merchant marine and mentor our future leaders. Well done, my friend!

 

To the family, friends, loved ones and shipmates of 1st Engineer Jay Corcoran, I am honored to stand here tonight and be a small part of his continuing contributions to our industry – even though he is no longer with us.

 

Learning of his life’s story, I know I would have been proud to sail with him. His love of country, his commitment to teamwork, and his humor are what go into making a good shipmate. I am certain that his friend Mark Enberg, and his Mass Maritime classmate - Rich Phillips would agree.

 

Jay’s commitment in life to supporting and lifting up others continues after his passing, as the Jay Corcoran memorial scholarship foundation has helped 53 students pursue an education and rewarding careers.

 

May you all take some comfort in knowing that jay and all of the crew and passengers of Flight 175 continued on their journey to their just reward, and that they now have eternal peace.

Jay Corcoran’s life is an outstanding example of professionalism, patriotism, and leadership, which is why he is a worthy recipient of this honor.

 

You know, a lot of folks like to talk about leadership theories these days and how things should be done, and that everyone be happy and accommodated.

 

Well, any of us who have ever had to actually lead in high risk situations where the stakes were high and people’s lives potentially hung in the balance – like Steve and Jay and Rich – know that it takes more than just trendy theories and PowerPoint slides. It takes courage, determination, and grit.

 

This past Friday in New York city, I had the great honor of recognizing some of that real kind of leadership as it was rendered by Captain Bill Boyce, Master of the M/V Green Lake.

 

We awarded the gallant ship award to bill and his crew for their extraordinary skill and seamanship in rescuing 7 survivors who had abandoned the burning PCTC M/V Sincerity Ace some 1800 nautical miles northwest of Oahu on New Year’s Eve this year.

 

They were only the 42nd ship to ever receive the award in the past 75 years, and the first one to earn it in over 25 years. Quite an honor.

 

Clearly, Captain Boyce’s strong leadership was evident in the performance of his crew over 18 hours of intensive rescue operations in 20 foot seas and 30 knots of wind. His crew of 20 was working as a team of professionals. A great story.

 

But I’d like to tell you about the more important leadership story we should all take away from this episode.

 

You see, though the ship was successful in plucking 7 survivors from the stormy seas over the course of those 18 hours, they lost the battle to save the first man they tried to rescue. They failed.

 

Trying to maneuver that 650 foot bluff-sided PCTC in 20 foot seas and 30 knot winds directly alongside that struggling man was a real challenge, and it took several attempts – more than anyone on that ship wanted – to get her alongside.

 

That struggling man died before their eyes.

 

Captain Bill told me that it shook him and the crew to their core – to fail when they were so close to saving that struggling man.

 

But here’s where the real leadership took place that day: Captain Bill Boyce was able to put that crushing failure behind him, and rally himself and his crew to press on.

 

He got the crew together and had what had to be one of the most difficult conversations any leader could possibly have: “we have failed, a man has died, but there are others out there still alive who are depending on us – their only hope – to save them.” Can you imagine?

 

So everyone went back to work, and they recovered all the remaining survivors that they came upon. Ladies and gentlemen: I would submit to you that that is real leadership.

 

I would venture to say that every member of that crew will remember that “talk,” and the officers who served with Bill Boyce – including the two cadets from Kings Point – got the leadership lesson of their lives.

 

I wouldn’t wish a dire leadership situation like that on any of them, but should they ever find themselves in a similar situation in the future, I hope those young officers remember the amazing example that was set for them.

 

I bet they will.

 

It just reinforces for me a leadership lesson I learned some years ago: never underestimate the impact you make as a leader over those you lead.

 

I know that leaders like most of you here tonight get that, it’s a great privilege and part of the burden and responsibility of a leader to make sure that our impact is a positive one.

 

So thanks very much for having me here tonight. Again, congratulations Steve, and Jay - who is I’m sure looking down on us all.

 

Good evening and god bless.
 

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Updated: Tuesday, November 12, 2019