Sgt. of Arms Frank Larkin Inspires Us All

There are few governmental officials that can inspire so many idealistic young minds with a single conversation like Frank Larkin can. A Villanova CLAS alum class of ’82 with a degree in Criminal Justice, as well as a Masters in Public Administration from Villanova in ’86, Mr. Larkin made time his extremely busy day to meet with the inaugural class of Villanova on the Hill 2017. He spoke with us about his current role as Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate and his career working in various law enforcement and public service roles. He also shared with us what his approach leadership looks like when we are trying to solve some of the most difficult problems facing our country. 


His views of Washington DC, and not just the views from his office, which were indeed remarkable, told a story of a town filled with honorable and hard working men and women that have a shared passion for public service. While he was honest in his assessment that the current political reality in the U.S. Senate can be one of gridlock and partisan overtones, Frank’s point of view was unique. Being the chief law enforcement officer of the Senate, he doesn’t care if you are Democrat, Republican or Independent, his job is to make sure that everyone is safe and has the resources and abilities they need to achieve the results that their constitutes elected them to achieve.  


With over 4,000 people reporting to him, and a budget of over $200 million, Mr. Larkin is responsible for security, telecommunications and technology services for employees in and around the U.S. Senate. He has built a dynamic team around him that assist in ensuring the safety and security the Capitol and all those who enter. As Sgt. of Arms, he also gets the honor of escorting foreign heads of state around the building when they come to visit Capitol Hill, including China’s President Xi Jinping in September of 2015. 


Mr. Larkin shared with us the fascinating trajectory of his career path, beginning with his time in the U.S. Navy as a Navy SEAL, and then his various government-related jobs in law enforcement, as a police officer in Norristown, as a homicide detective in Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office and as a Maryland State Trooper. Mr. Larkin also had a storied career with the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Defense. Such as career shows a special kind of person that is focused on doing the best job he can to make America a safer place to live and work.  


Mr. Larkin remembers his experience being between the Twin Towers on 9/11 and how he rose to the level of leadership that the situation demanded of him. He was awarded the Medal of Valor for his heroism that day. 


I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the character and humility that Mr. Larkin displayed as he spent part of the morning with us on our first full day on the Hill. His unassuming manner and good-hearted nature inspired in all of us a sense that the way we treat people matters because it can go a long way in advancing one’s career, but more importunely, will determine what kind of people we are to our friends and fellow citizens. 


When Frank shared with us 3 Core leadership points, we knew his advice was coming from someone who had an extraordinary career working for the government, but we also knew that we were learning from a man who had integrity and decency. These leadership points, if properly implemented and maintained, will make us all better students, better professionals and better people. 


First, treat each other with respect. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, different parts of the country, many times different political parties, but if we want to create a productive work environment and accomplish our goals together, the first step is coming to the table with respect for each other. This concept of considering the other person’s point of view before we rush to conclusions has been one small way we can help improve the current gridlock in Congress. If we can understand the opposing party member’s values, and where they are coming from, we will have a better understanding of why they are doing what they doing. This common understanding creates mutual respect between the two members which is a prime starting ground for a productive dialogue on issues that have traditionally been hyper-partisan, like tax reform or healthcare. 


Second, treat each other how we would like to be treated. He elaborated and told us that too often, we fail to think of things from other people’s perspective. He even challenged us by saying that there must be times, we consider that in the reverse, how would other people like to be treated. This concept to a certain degree transcends mere politics. Mr. Larkin clearly demonstrates an admirable sense of purpose that he uses his position of power to promote the needs of the American people, especially those who may not have someone in their immediate life helping in their everyday life. 


Third, recognize the dignity in everyone. This final concept of leadership beckons to me of the Augustinian values of Unitas, Caritas, and Veritas that a Villanova education plays a formative role in developing. As leaders of tomorrow and public servants of the common good, we must take what we’ve learned on campus and live those values and spread that message in our careers and daily lives. Mr. Larkin clearly has done a incredible job remaining true to his roots and using his position to do the right thing. 


Upon leaving his office and asking one of my fellow Villanovans on the Hill her thoughts on what we all just experienced, her first response was, we need more people like Frank working in this town. His approach of mutual respect, decency and collaboration are rare to find but extremely valuable attributes in what a successful campaign to fix the problems of Washington looks like. We learned from so much about leadership and techniques to create the prime starting point for productive bipartisan dialogue. Perhaps most profound, Mr. Larkin inspired in us all the very spark that we can make a positive difference in whatever we set our minds on achieving.