When Todd A. Weiler was a kid, he wanted to be President of the United States one day. “While other kids dreamed of being superheroes or star athletes,” he writes, “I practiced for the White House by reciting inauguration speeches to imaginary crowds numbering in the millions.”
Fast-forward 50ish years later, Weiler may not have achieved his childhood dream, but his contributions to our country are astounding and exemplify what true leadership (or as Weiler puts it, LEADERSHIP) looks like. These contributions, the vision driving them, and the formative origins of Weiler’s life work are the subject of his debut, Untamed Equality: The New Frontier of Safety, Security and Inclusion.
From his upbringing by a mother keenly tuned to politics, civic responsibility and “taking the harder right, rather than the easier wrong,” to his experiences as an attack helicopter pilot during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Weiler’s formative years solidified a deep sense of service. His winding career path since then has found him on Presidential campaign trails, the risky cliffs of entrepreneurship, measured paces up and down the long halls of the Pentagon, and back around again.
It’s a journey that has gifted him with deep and unique insights that have shaped him into a thought leader with an informed, reasoned, well-built plan for what he calls “untamed equality” in our country and across the world.
PUSHING TOWARD A DEEPER INCLUSIVITY
What does “untamed” mean? According to Weiler, it is the next step we must take to ensure the “safety and security” of our country. While any step toward equality is to be celebrated (even the partial ones), “untamed equality” isn’t the lip-service policy-makings of bureaucrats, but the job of true leaders inside and outside of marginalized groups and the institutions that marginalize them.
These leaders don’t pander to “let’s all just get along,” Weiler says. “They don’t accept the ‘acceptable.’ They don’t take a seat until it is their turn. They don’t jump on the bandwagon; they are driving it.”
It is a huge shift in thought and action, but Weiler himself has done much already in his own corner of expertise to move it forward. In his Pentagon roles under two Democratic presidents, he has lead the charge for a more inclusive military — one that is “a mirror of the society it serves” in which more Americans feel they have a personal stake and mutual respect.
It involves not only shifting the way the military operates within its personnel machine, but how the military views its role in helping build and secure democratic societies across the globe. It involves seeking and leveraging the benefits of diversity for our own advancement and in service to our allies and neighbors. The U.S. military has the might to make the world a safer place not just for the “wealthy white men” in power, but for all.
A CAREER OF POLICY-SHIFTING LEADERSHIP
But grand plans demand concrete action. And while no one person can change the world alone, one’s actions can have a ripple effect that becomes a seismic force that moves mountains.
Such has been Weiler’s illustrious career in the Pentagon. In his leadership roles, he has championed and moved forward many much-needed changes to both the policies and attitudes on military personnel recruitment and retention. These span everything from diversity initiatives to the health and wellbeing of military members and their families.
To Weiler’s credit are efforts that include the implementation and then dismantling of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and replacing this first (albeit problematic and inadequate) step with policies that were not only more inclusive and protective of gays in the military but also extended opportunities for transgendered people to serve their country. As a gay man, these efforts held (and still hold) personal significance for Weiler. But LGBTQ inclusivity isn’t enough to create “untamed equality.”
He spearheaded efforts to open combat positions to qualified female soldiers, and shepherded changes to the way soldiers and their families were supported and looked after, not only during deployment but beforehand, and long after their tours of duty were over. He introduced policies that leveled the playing field for various roles in the military and ensured adequate funding to the many moving parts that make up our armed forces — a kind of equality that goes beyond personal attributes to recognize the equally important roles each of us plays, whether at work or in our communities.
IT’S TIME FOR WEILER’S THIRD ACT
When the Obama administration came to an end, so did Weiler’s most recent assignment at the Pentagon. But he had already been through this cycle once before with the Clinton administration. And it didn’t stop him from fighting for his vision of untamed equality in civilian, non-governmental life. Nor did it stop him from honing and shaping that vision into a concrete plan for the next Democratic administration.
Weiler may never be President of the United States, but it’s my fervent hope we’ll have him back in the Pentagon soon enough. And with any luck, our new Democratic President will have the common sense to ensure that Weiler is in a leadership position where he can help the military regain and complete its shift toward the “untamed equality” required for the security of our country and the safety of its people.
Learn more about Weiler on his BookTrib author profile page.