Retired Gen. James Mattis to speak at free, in-person Badger Club event in Tri-Cities

Perhaps no one has said “democracy is not a spectator sport” without a better realization of the price of our nation’s founding democratic ideal than retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis.

And on Tuesday, June 18, the Columbia Basin Badger Club will present the distinguished former Secretary of Defense in a free public presentation titled, “America in a Dangerous World: An Overview.”

Mattis, who grew up in Richland and still calls it home, will speak at the Gjerde Center at Columbia Basin College. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the program starting at 7 pm. Pre-registration is required at

Mattis, known for his profound insights and strategic acumen, will provide a comprehensive analysis of current global threats and challenges to democracy and America’s role in addressing them. He also will take audience questions after his presentation.

This is the third time Mattis has spoken to the Badger Club. The last time was four years ago when the Badger Club moved our meetings to the Zoom platform because of the pandemic. The first time was June 10, 2014, when he was leading all U.S. forces in the Middle East as commander of CENTCOM.

The Mattis program comes on the heels of America’s celebrations of our military’s service — Memorial Day on May 27, and the June 6 ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the Allied landing in Europe on D-Day.

In a 2022 Military Appreciation Banquet, Mattis noted that more than 42 million servicemen and women have served in our nation’s wars, and more than 666,000 have been killed.

“These deaths extend far into a family and community, friends left behind, and children unborn,” he said.

In this Tri-City presentation, Mattis will provide an overview of the threats and challenges we face in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Alliances and partnerships are not static; they require nurturing and adaptation.

He points out that we must reaffirm our commitments to our allies and invest in the relationships that have secured peace and stability for decades. Diplomacy, backed by credible and ready military power, is our most potent tool in deterring aggression and fostering cooperation.

Mattis argues we also must address the fissures that threaten our country’s unity.

“It’s our responsibility to show respect and genuine friendship to each other as fellow citizens — including those with whom we may disagree — by unifying around our radical idea of what is said in our Constitution,” he has said.

A house divided cannot stand, and our authoritarian adversaries are keen to exploit these divisions.

We must strive to find common ground, rekindle the spirit of compromise and reinforce the principles that have made America a beacon of hope.

— C. Mark Smith is chairman of the Badger Club program committee. He spent 10 years in the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations and managed economic development organizations at the federal, state and local level for more than 40 years. He is the author of five books on history and biography. ― Rick Larson is a member of the Badger Club Board of Directors and program committee and is the former managing editor of the Tri-City Herald.