Interview with Brigadier General Clifford L. Stanley, U.S. Marine Corps

By Miller, Robert G. | Diversity Employers, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Interview with Brigadier General Clifford L. Stanley, U.S. Marine Corps


Miller, Robert G., Diversity Employers


There are only four African-American General Officers in the United States Marine Corps and Brigadier General Clifford L. Stanley is one of them. As Director of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., he is the Corps' information chief and serves as the principal advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps on Public Affairs. Brig. Gen. Stanley is responsible for helping devise policy matters related to public understanding and support of the Marine Corps. He also has the task of coordinating public affairs programs and activities with a Corps-wide impact in conjunction with the Asst. Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and the Navy's Chief of Information.

Brig. Gen. Stanley is a Washington, D.C. native with nearly 29 years of experience in the Corps. He received his commission in 1969 after graduating from South Carolina State University. His formal education also includes a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University along with specialized military educational training at the Amphibious Warfare School, the Naval War College, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. He has maintained a secondary military occupational specialty of parachutist while previously serving in many command positions domestically and abroad. Numerous personal decorations have been awarded to him including the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Navy Commendation Medal, and Navy Achievement Medal.

TBC - What are some of your values or traits that have contributed to your career success?

Stanley - I think probably at the top would be perseverance and hard work. I have to honestly say integrity and a very strong moral foundation were important because my family raised us in the church. That I think gave me the perseverance part in the beginning of my life. I saw many examples of success mostly around the church, and they weren't always associated with glamorous jobs. Just because a person happened to be a cook, hairdresser or custodian made no difference. We were taught a long time ago to respect people and so that became sort of the foundation that helped my brother and me, and that's just our family.

TBC - What are the key milestones or turning points and challenges you've faced in your distinguished military career that got you to the position of Brigadier General?

Stanley - The first milestone was South Carolina State. There was a nurturing environment where everybody was literally a part of the growing process; every teacher, administrator, and even the people who worked in the dining hall were a part of your success. You just knew it and felt it. I was the junior class president and the student body president. I was a campus leader working in the choir and things like that, so I was very active there.

When I left this predominately Black environment, I was very comfortable going into an almost white environment in the Marine Corps. The fact that I was nurtured in an environment where people really cared about me, entering the Marine Corps when racial turmoil was really tough, wasn't even a wrinkle. The things I focused on were being successful by studying and working hard. Even though there may have been some people who were naysayers, they didn't count. And, quite frankly after a couple of tests and other challenges, I said I can do this. That became a turning point.

I'd say the next significant hump came when my wife was a victim of a racial attack. She was shot by a sniper and was paralyzed. My uncle was killed, and he was also a college graduate from my school, That was the turning point where I thought I was going to have to cash it all in and at least move to something a little more stable. My wife encouraged me to stay and we prayed on it. The Marine Corps actually worked overtime to keep me in. Again, the same environment you'd think would've been hostile reached out and grabbed me.

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