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Eric Robert Greitens (born April 10, 1974) is a nonprofit leader, author, speaker, and United States Navy SEAL who lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a former Truman Scholar and Rhodes Scholar and the founder of the nonprofit The Mission Continues, which encourages veterans to volunteer for community service. TIME magazine awarded Greitens with the number twelve spot under its 100 Most Influential People in the World in April 2013, and Fortune Magazine identified him as one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world.
Early life and education
Greitens was born and raised in Missouri, the son of Becky and Robert Greitens. Greitens attended Parkway North High School. He was named a member of the 1995 USA Today All-USA Academic Team. Greitens was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University where he studied ethics, philosophy, and public policy. After graduating in 1996, he was selected as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar. Greitens attended Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, where he earned a master's degree in development studies in 1998 and a Ph.D. in politics in 2000.
Greitens is a Senior Fellow at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. In the past, Greitens has taught classes at both the University of Missouri in Columbia and at Washington University in St. Louis.
As an undergraduate researcher, Greitens spent time in Croatia and Rwanda where he aided war refugees. His thesis at Oxford, entitled Children First, investigated the ways in which international humanitarian organizations can best serve war-affected children. Greitens has worked as a humanitarian volunteer, documentary photographer, and researcher in Zaire, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Cambodia, Mexico, Bolivia, and India. His photographs were featured in the publication, Community Strategies for Healing.
Greitens attended Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, after graduating from Oxford. He began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and graduated with Class 237 in Coronado, California, in February 2002. Greitens is currently a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve, and he was deployed four times to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as the commander of a joint special operations task unit, commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft detachment, and as commander of an al Qaeda targeting cell. His personal military awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.
White House Fellowship
In 2005, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a White House Fellow. As a White House Fellow, Greitens worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and developed a new program to assist with the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina. The program, called the Universities Rebuilding America Partnership (URAP), was a $5.6 million effort to engage architecture and engineering students in the continued effort to rebuild New Orleans. During his time as a White House Fellow, he also co-founded the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Program.
The Mission Continues
After returning from Iraq, Greitens used his combat pay and the disability pay of two friends to start The Mission Continues. The mission of the organization is to "challenge veterans to serve and lead in communities across America."
The Mission Continues encourages veterans to heal themselves through public service by engaging in volunteer organizations across the country. In 2014 the organization won the CLASSY Award, recognizing its effectiveness in active-duty and veteran services. Greitens stepped down as CEO in July 2014. He continues to serve on the board of directors.
Author and Speaker
Strength and Compassion is a collection of photographs and essays by Eric Greitens. Published in 2008, it is Greitens's first book, with a foreword by Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina and an introduction by Bobby Muller, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Greitens's second book, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, was published on April 11, 2011, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Heart and the Fist is Greitens's memoir of service, featuring stories of his humanitarian work, his training as a naval officer and SEAL and the military experiences that led him to adopt the paradoxical philosophy that you have to be strong to do good, but you also have to do good to be strong. Kirkus Review said of The Heart and the Fist: "Clear-eyed account of a youth devoted to service as a warrior and a humanitarian." The book became a New York Times bestseller and debuted on The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance Best Sellers list at No. 1 for the week of April 17, 2011. The following year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also released a young adult edition of The Heart and the Fist titled The Warrior's Heart.
In March 2015, Greitens released, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life, with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book draws on letters Greitens wrote to a fellow SEAL struggling with PTSD.
Greitens is a prominent public speaker for law enforcement, universities, civic associations, and corporations on topics such as leadership, service, social responsibility, and resilience.
Greitens has been reported as a potential political candidate for office in Missouri. In April 2015, he told The Daily Show that he has set up an exploratory committee to look into the 2016 governor's race.
Awards, honors and media
In 2014, Fortune Magazine featured Greitens as one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders. On April 18, 2013, Time magazine named Greitens to its 2013 one hundred Most Influential People in the World.
On May 20, 2012, Greitens was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Tufts University when he gave the commencement speech at the school's 156th commencement. That same year, Greitens received the Bronfman Prize, which recognizes dynamic leaders whose innovation and impact serve as inspiration for the next generations.
In June 2010, Major League Baseball and People Magazine announced Eric Greitens as a winner in People Magazine's All-Stars Among Us competition. He was selected to represent the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals at the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.
On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush personally awarded Greitens the President's Volunteer Service Award outside Air Force One at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, for his work at The Mission Continues.
Greitens is an accomplished marathon runner who has also won gold medals in taekwondo and boxing. Greitens was honored with the HOOAH Award, commissioned by the Major George A. Smith Memorial Fund in 2009. Greitens was named the 2010 Reader of the Year by Outside magazine.
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- The Mission Continues
- Lecture on The Heart and the Fist at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library
- Eric Greitens on Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library
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