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Oliver North takes swipes at media, politicians in Southeastern speech

By ERIC PERA | The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla. (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 19, 2016

LAKELAND, Fla. — Oliver North, a decorated war hero and unabashed critic of current U.S. policy in the war against terrorism, took a few bare-knuckled swipes at the media and politicians Friday night as keynote speaker at a fundraiser for Southeastern University.

North's presentation, at times folksy and humorous, nonetheless admonished "the liberal media" and unspecified members of Congress for not doing more to uplift the men and women serving in today's military.

"These are the finest Americans you'd ever want to meet," North said to an explosion of applause during Friday's dinner event that capped Southeastern's day-long National Leadership Forum.

North, 72, a former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who played a central role in the Iran-Contra affair, entertained guests inside the Lakeland university's Sportsplex with photographs he'd taken while working as a war correspondent for Fox News.

His speech, lasting roughly 30 minutes, was interspersed with Biblical scripture and personal anecdotes about his career, the many books he's written and qualities that he believes are inherent to being a leader.

Fundamental to leadership, he said, is being a role model and servant leader, attributes exhibited by men and women in uniform, people who "put themselves at risk for the benefit of others."

"My heroes wear combat boots and flak jackets," said North, who was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Much of his presentation dwelled on his photographs of Marines somewhere in the Middle East going about the business of war. In one picture, a group of soldiers were kneeling in prayer for the safety of bomb-sniffing canines. Another shot depicted a soldier carrying a wounded comrade.

North said he finds it uplifting that so many American service men and women, including some commanders, are unafraid to display their Christian faith in deference to a culture of hostility toward such open expression within the upper echelons of the military.

It was a presentation tailor-made for an audience at Southeastern, a school affiliated with the Assemblies of God.

Southeastern President Kent Ingle praised North's service to country, and his unabashed expressions of faith.

"Thank you Col. North ... we appreciate your commitment to God, your family and your service," he said at the conclusion of North's talk.

The evening's gala served to raise funds for student scholarships. Ingle said the school distributed $22 million in scholarships this year, but "we want to do more."

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