Scholar, practitioner, and warrior: David Leffler, Class of 2011

February 17, 2015  |  STUDENTS & ALUMNI

Dave Leffler MarinesIn the fall of 2013, following the completion of a Bachelor's from Princeton University, a Master's from IWP, and a high level government contracting experience, David Leffler decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.

While a student at IWP, Dave found himself working alongside military personnel at the Department of Defense and studying alongside active duty military and veterans in class. He was impressed by the professionalism of the military.  "It ended up bringing out a desire I had had since I was a child to serve in the military." 

He was also inspired by a quotation he read in Amb. Alberto Piedra's Western Moral Tradition and World Politics class:

"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools." - Thucydides

Already a scholar, Dave was ready to serve as a warrior.  "To me, I interpreted this quotation as having some sort of service in your background," he commented.  "I was ready to serve a cause higher than myself."  

Dave Leffler QuotationDave was attracted to the Marine Corps thanks to "its history, ethos, and extreme professionalism."  Due to the decreasing need for officers at the time Dave joined, enlisting was the only realistic way in.  "I will still be a Marine, and no one can take that away from me," he commented.  "At no point would I want to risk wishing I had served when looking at someone else in uniform."

His experiences in the DC contracting world and classes at IWP equipped him with a unique skill set at the time of his enlistment. "IWP definitely helped with my defense work," said Dave.

He found Prof. Kenneth deGraffenreid's course on Intelligence and Policy particularly helpful during his time in DC.  By day, Dave was working on interagency exercise planning at high operational and strategic levels, evaluating partnerships, and analyzing information sharing processes among agencies.  By night, Dave would attend class and learn from scholar practitioners about how the national security apparatus works and coordinates, as well as the historical events that shaped its current structure.  He remembers: "In my after action reports, having a background understanding of why it was organized the way it was made me able to make more helpful suggestions to our government client."

Dave Leffler, Marine Combat TrainingGrowing up with parents who regularly discussed politics and international affairs, Dave was drawn to studying national security after the 9/11 attacks.  "When it happened, I was right across the Hudson from the World Trade Center.  My dad's office was right across the street.  It left an impact on me." 

After studying politics and international relations at Princeton, Dave chose IWP for graduate school because of how specialized the programs were.  "Other well-regarded schools in the DC area seemed to have a more theoretical or political approach," he said.  "IWP's program had a no-kidding approach: this is the way the world works, and here is your toolset to address it."  

Dave has taken the lessons learned from his defense work and attendance at IWP to his service with the Marine Corps.   "The way the IWP education has helped me in terms of understanding intelligence has affected my ability to mentor junior Marines," says Dave.  "I have had mentor meetings where I explain how intelligence agencies work, and I've taught classes on the post 9/11 intelligence community restructuring.  All these topics were so central at IWP."  

Junior marines have told Dave that they truly appreciate his guidance, and have said that it helps them put their whole military experience into perspective.  Dave and his colleagues are currently undergoing intensive language training with the Defense Language Institute - a process that is not always easy. 

"When I convey to them that this is part of a larger mission, what is at stake, and what they stand to benefit from keeping their eyes on the long term prize, it keeps up their motivation," Dave commented.  "I think that my education at IWP was invaluable, even now, in training.  The ability to serve the Marines under me has been the most profound experience I have had in my life so far."

Dave Leffler at IWP Commencement

Above: David Leffler at Commencement, May 2011.