Congressman talks to GVHS students: ‘You have so much to look forward to’
By Robert Stevens
Sept. 7, 2017
GUNNISON—Chris Stewart, national award-winning author, world-record-setting Air Force pilot and now congressman visited Gunnison Valley High School (GVHS) last Friday, Sept. 1 to talk to the students about their futures and about his path in life.
“Just like my kids,” Stewart told the GVHS student body, “you guys have grown up in times of great uncertainty. You hear a lot of about war these days, and there is a lot of pessimism. I am going to tell you what I tell my kids: ‘You have so much to look forward to.’”
Stewart told the students about growing up in Cache County and, after earning a degree in economics from Utah State University, being torn between going on to law school or joining the Air Force like his father.
“I would go park near Hill Air Force Base and watch the F-16s take off,” he said. “I just really wanted to fly.”
Stewart says his family wasn’t happy at first about his choice to forego law school for the Air Force, but the decision ended up being one of the best he ever made.
He became a “distinguished graduate” (top of his class) in both Officer Training School and undergraduate pilot training. He was an Air Force pilot for 14 years, flying both rescue helicopters and the B-1B bomber. He holds three world speed records, including the world record for the fastest non-stop flight around the world.
“Some of the best time and things I have had in my life were with my brothers and sisters in the military,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to serve my country.”
But it wasn’t all smooth, he said. His Air Force instructor told him half of the class would end up washing out of pilot school.
“I walked around with this gut-wrenching worry in my stomach all the time, thinking it might be me,” he said. Many of his classed washed out, even a classmate who had graduated from MIT with a perfect school record.
One night lying in bed, Stewart said he came to a realization that he would be OK with being kicked out of pilot school as long as he had tried his hardest and done everything he could do not to fail.
“I just decided I was going to work harder than everyone,” he said. Stewart said a lot of the times when his classmates would leave the base and go downtown, he would stay behind to study, knowing the only way to do better than the people who were smarter and more skilled than him was to work harder.
“I would study a little bit longer, and a little bit harder,” he said. “I did it in chunks, sometimes just a half hour here or there.”
In the end, Stewart said he graduated at the top of his class because he worked harder, not because he was better, than other aspiring pilots.
“You can do that too,” he told the students. “You get to choose to work harder. I can assure you I got into Congress because I worked harder than the other candidates.
“Remember that. Things are not just going to fall into your lap, but you can work harder and accomplish the things that you want from life.”
Stewart is also a prolific author who has written 18 books, several of which have become national best-sellers and have been published in six different countries.