Pascal ’12 and Michael Brun ’10 returned as a one-two punch to Diversity Day at Culver Academies Friday, Oct. 7. Pascal, who graduated from the United States Military Academy this spring, served as the featured speaker during the All-School convocation, focusing on the theme “Who Am I, Who Are You, Who Are We?”
That night, Michael, an internationally known DJ and producer, entertained the students at a special outdoor concert on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee behind the Roberts Hall of Science and the Dicke Hall of Mathematics. During the convocation it was announced that Michael was establishing a summer camp scholarship to benefit an international student. The Bruns’ appearance was supported by the Class of 1962 Student Enrichment Fund.
The Bruns grew up in Port Au Prince, Haiti, before coming to Culver. They are connected to Culver through Patrick Moynihan ’83, who is president of The Haitian Project, which operates Louverture Cleary School in Port Au Prince. Michael, who began as a DJ at Culver dances, studied medicine in college before leaving to fully pursue his growing musical career. Pascal, who was regimental commander at Culver and designed Culver’s diversity patch, made West Point history as the first international cadet to graduate Brigade S-1 (Personnel) Adjutant General, and will serve with the Haitian National Police.
As he started his talk, Pascal explained he had originally planned to share the stage with “one of my best friends,” fellow Haitian and West Point grad Alix Schoelcher Idrache.
In lieu of appearing physically, Idrache greeted students in a video in which he pointed out that, while he and Brun are from the same country, “we come from two different worlds.” His Haiti, Idrache said, is marked by bullets flying, dogs roaming the streets, and people cooking food along the roadways.
“However,” he added, “fate put us on the same path (at West Point).”
Idrache went on to emphasize that life is comprised of daily decisions made by each of us, noting he and Brun made similar decisions to “push ourselves and not settle for anything…greatness for me is to, one day, be in zero gravity, orbiting earth as an Army astronaut, holding my Haitian flag.”
Figure out very clearly what it is that motivates me. What do I value and what do I believe. What do I want to work for in my life.
Idrache became something of a sensation this spring when a tearful photo of him at his West Point graduation became an Internet sensation as personifying the American Dream, alive and well.
Brun, calling Idrache’s story “extremely inspiring,” explained that Haiti is broken into two factors: race and economic class; and that he and Idrache hail from opposite ends of both.
Idrache came to the United States in 2009 and became a naturalized citizen. “He worked his butt off,” according to Brun, he worked as a fry cook while learning English, then enlisted in the Army, and did so well that his company commander suggested he should be an officer. He went on to graduate from West Point with a 4.2 GPA.
Brun’s focus to his Culver student audience began with Identity – the underlying theme of 2016’s Diversity Day. Showing a slide that said “I am _____,” he pointed to the circumstances in each individual’s life which are out of his or her control (such as height, race, family, location of birth), and those aspects under each person’s control, such as values, actions, and character.
“You start by internalizing your values, what you believe in,” he said. “Those become motivations to action, and repeated action becomes your character.”
Brun illustrated his point by quizzing students on their choices in response to the imagined presence of a huge spider in their dorm or barracks room. Do you leave the room or do you take care of the spider? The takeaway, he explained, is “If you don’t decide for yourself what you believe in, someone else will make the decision for you, down to a spider.”
Brun extended the concept from the individual to the collective.
“If you’re asking yourself, ‘How can I be a leader in my dorm or my unit,” ask each other what you want your unit or dorm to accomplish, and then agree what your group values are. Despite your different circumstances you’ll all be able to take the direction necessary to accomplish your schedule.”
He also emphasized the value of using circumstances for, and not against, one’s goals.
“I am what I choose to be,” Brun said. “When you go back to your rooms tonight, decide what you want today, tomorrow out of your units and dorms, and out of your life.”
“Figure out very clearly what it is that motivates me. What do I value and what do I believe. What do I want to work for in my life, so you can clearly and confidently say ‘I am…’ and fill in the blank.”