Students at Chief Joseph Middle School had a surprise on Friday, Nov. 16 when James Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, paid a visit.
Secretary Mattis toured the school and visited a few sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms. He talked about his work as the head of the U.S. Department of Defense and encouraged students to be dedicated to doing well in school so they could be successful later in life.
“Without an education, you don’t know where you’re starting, and if you don’t know where you’re starting, you don’t know where to go,” he said.
Mattis grew up in Richland and attended Chief Joseph in the 1960s before graduating from Richland High School, then known as Columbia High School in 1968. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he rose to be a general.
Students asked the Secretary questions about his years at Chief Joseph and the military as well as about his current role serving in the Cabinet of President Donald Trump.
“It’s just cool that someone in that high of authority came from our town,” said eighth-grader Olivia Merz.
Principal Kevin Norris says the school was excited to welcome Secretary Mattis and give students an opportunity to interact with someone from their own community who has served the country for decades and has a prominent role in the federal government.
“All of our students are capable of going on to remarkable lives and there’s no better way to drive that message home than to have them meet someone who attended their school and has done just that,” Mr. Norris says.