Over the course of two decades, Kevin Opple's career as a Navy officer saw him lead the operations of guided-missile warships; manage contractors who helped prepare Army brigades for deployments to Afghanistan; and even direct the safety units of an entire base, at Naval Station Everett, north of Seattle, Washington.
Now, recently retired from the military, Opple has begun a second career in public service, as the chief administrator of Edinboro, located just south of Erie in the Keystone State's northwest corner.
When I entered the Ford Institute, like most of my peers, I was idealistic about public service. One of the great advantages of going to a liberal arts school like Albion, and especially being a part of the Ford Institute, was that instead of feeding this idealism, I was expected to dig into the roots of both sides of an issue and deconstruct the idea of absolute right and wrong.
Albion also gave me practical opportunities to serve as one of the founders for the campus chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. It showed how powerful group action could be in improving a community. Most importantly, my time at Albion and Ford gave me confidence that I could be a leader and that I could make a difference. My career in the Navy was a natural progression of what was instilled in me at Albion.
I think that the current attitude in society is one of pessimism towards government. My experience has been that the majority of people in the public-service sector are dedicated to improving their community. Society needs institutions like the Ford Institute more than ever to continue to train motivated young minds and to inspire them to serve the public in government and nonprofit organizations. What Ford and Albion teach more than anything else is critical analysis, and that is in more demand than ever.
This article is an online extra to the feature "Four Decades of the Ford Institute" in the Spring-Summer 2017 edition of Io Triumphe! magazine.