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Duke scholar majoring in ethics at Duke University, Greitens told one of his professors, Tom Mc Collough, that he wanted to be president someday. “I met Eric early,” he says, “because he spoke to the general assembly of the faculty on the honor code. , presents the turning points in his life as swift, impulsive, and decisive, as though he’s being led by deep inner wisdom along an ordained path. Navy’s measly pay and the grueling test of becoming a SEAL.Yes, as a freshman—and it was so compelling that I went up and congratulated him afterward.” Greitens went on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, earned a master’s in development studies, and spent the long breaks volunteering in Albania, Cambodia, India... It’s a writerly device, boiling a life down to its essence and pulling out the drama. To those who knew him well, though, the decision wasn’t quite that abrupt.
In the early years, he takes virtually no salary, but by 2011 he’s making 5,000 a year.a strategist whose entire life has been planned as a ramp to the U. Or is that the very cynicism he’s fighting to change?The Résumé A navy blue “Eric Greitens for Governor” banner stretches across the curved white balcony of Beth Berra’s house in Town & Country.“He’s known for a long time that he wants to do something really special,” Moore explains, “and like a lot of people who do great things, he’s ultracompetitive.” What better proof of courage and character could he offer, years later, than a SEAL trident? ” Unfazed, Greitens criticizes some higher-ups for fostering the wrong culture, writing that “an inordinately large portion [of class time] is spent listening to stories of sex and drinking.” (At university, he criticized relief agency administrators just as freely, for failing to help children.) This self-assured candor further sets him apart, and enough officers welcome it that he acquires an aura of promise.The Second Turning Point In SEAL training, his résumé wins him extra hazing. One of only 21 members in a class of 220 to tough it out past Hell Week, he receives his trident.His brilliant young wife looks a bit like Kate Middleton, believes in him wholeheartedly, and is carrying their second child.
In 2014, magazine named him one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” alongside Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and Angelina Jolie. Now he’s running for governor, and Missouri has to decide whether he’s A. too good to be true and hiding some dark flaw no one can find, or C. And if the answer is C, does aspiring to be the perfect politician tarnish his perfection?
Steve Culbertson, CEO of Youth Service America, gives me his version. Culbertson worries aloud about veterans returning with disabilities—they’ve had such extraordinary experiences, and what will they do now? The two men move from bed to bed, listening as wounded soldiers tell them they want to go back to their units.
Culbertson gently points out that that may not be possible. He and a college buddy have long had an idea for a service organization for college students, the Center for Citizen Leadership. And so, with his combat pay and two friends’ disability checks, he starts a nonprofit (later renamed The Mission Continues) that helps vets with crushing disabilities rediscover their strength by serving others.
But it makes everything feel a little too pat, a little…scripted. As he tells it, he attends a fancy dinner in the Rhodes mansion at Oxford, gazes up at the rotunda and sees, etched in marble, the names of all the Rhodes scholars who fought and died in World War II. “The military thing was always there,” says his lifelong buddy Steve Moore, “from G. Joes to video games in middle school.” Greitens consistently sought the most extreme tests of his abilities.
Spartan even in his teens, he shunned alcohol and bounded out of bed early in the morning.
Inside, golden balloons cluster on the high ceilings, and guests sip coffee or mimosas and chuckle over a tray of elephant cookies frosted with the initials E. Their namesake arrives, as he usually does, just a sliver past the appointed hour—close enough to seem prompt, late enough for anticipation to rise and be gratified.