May 14, 2011 - Commencement Speech - West Texas A&M University
May 17, 2011
Thank you Dr. Calvi for that nice introduction.
I have known Jim Calvi for more than 35 years as a fellow graduate student, professional colleague and my best friend.
I admire and respect him for his goodness, his leadership and most important....
The strength of his character
I want to thank President O'Brien for inviting me to speak at this commencement and be a part of this wonderful day at West Texas A&M University.
I want to especially thank the university faculty and the staff, and the graduates' families and friends.
Today we mark the fulfillment of many years of hard work and sacrifice,
And the recognition that your achievement today would not have been possible without the steadfast support of family and friends.
Graduating class of 2011, thank you for allowing me to speak to you today and share in this very special day with you and your families.
Thinking of what I could share with you today..... To inspire you to success......I thought of the one thing that always gives me confidence in America,
Our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen.
Since I am the Under Secretary of the Army, let me use this great institution as a foundation for what I wish to convey to you today but know that all who wear the uniform are made from the same cloth.
1.1 million men and women in the Army have sworn an oath to protect and defend our Constitution
And in so doing,
They have made a commitment to the Nation they serve,
That the values they uphold reflect the character of the
People they serve and protect.
They are Soldiers and they are members of the
Profession of arms.
After almost ten years of war, your Army has not failed
To live up to its core values that are defined by,
Loyalty to our Constitution,
Duty and respect for people,
Selfless service and always putting the nation first,
And honor, integrity and physical and moral courage.
These values and the character of our Soldiers is epitomized in the warrior ethos:
* I will always place the mission first.
* I will never accept defeat.
* I will never quit.
* I will never leave a fallen comrade.
* I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
* I am an American Soldier.
What the warrior ethos does is to guide these men and women to know who they are and what purpose they serve.
These core values help shape the person.
Despite significant and repeated deployments to combat, the American Soldier has stayed true to these values.
Today, more than a quarter of a million Soldiers are deployed to more 80 countries in support of liberty and freedom.
They are peacekeepers, warfighters, advisors, engineers,
Sustaining peace and building partner capacity in support democracy.
The officers and enlisted, senior leaders and non- commissioned officers, share a deep and abiding respect for the values they are charged to protect.
So, as you depart from this center of learning into a world of unpredictable change and complexity,
Think about the challenge you face in maintaining values and building character
Your work ethic,
Your family relations,
Your engagement in your community,
The level of commitment to lifelong learning
Will all define you, guide your actions and shape your future.
Your values can be the Army values,
Always place the mission first.... Which is to stay focused on the present and those goals and priorities that will help define you... ....
Family, work, friends, community, service.
Never accept defeat..... Stay the course, persevere, challenge the status quo, continue to learn.
Never quit, use the knowledge you gained here and the wisdom of your experiences to always look forward through the front windshield of life, while you pause occasionally to reflect in the rear view mirror, on the lessons you've learned.
Work hard and do it with integrity.
Never leave a fallen comrade... help those who are in need.....support your family in the best of times and in the worst of times.
To conclude, let me leave you with what I believe will be your greatest challenge.
We live in a world where in some places, the few want tyranny over the many, and other places, where the many want tyranny over the few.
Tyrants want to indoctrinate, exploit, control, and manipulate us for personal gain, ideology, in the name of God, or for personal power and ego.
They intimidate by acts of terrorism and our history has many examples of such threats to liberty.
Let me give you four examples:
On September 16, 1920, a horse drawn cart loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast- iron slugs exploded in front of the J.P. Morgan Bank Manhattan, New York.
The explosion killed 30 people and injured hundreds.
It was believed to be the work of anarchists but no one was ever arrested or convicted.
In September 1963, four little black girls attending the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama were killed by a bomb placed there by the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist group intent on tyranny.
On April 19, 1995, the most lethal act of domestic violence to date occurred when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injured 675 persons.
We all wondered why an American would bring such pain, suffering and grief to our Nation other than for the tyranny of his beliefs.
And when many of you were about 12 years of age, the attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 took the life of nearly 3,000 people.
What these events had in common was a person or persons who desired to make choices for us and who were willing to go to any extreme to challenge our values and distort our character.
Two weeks ago today, President Obama spoke to us about how our special forces had carried out a most important mission.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
We learned that night that the tree of liberty was watered by the blood of a despot, a manipulator, an advocate of death and destruction, Osama bin Laden.
And on that day, America took a deep breath as we came to know that our struggle to bring this tyrant to justice was over.
But also on that same day, the tree of Liberty was watered by the blood of American patriots, nine soldiers and three marines wounded in action in Afghanistan.
Today the world is a better place not because terrorism is over or Al Qaeda is no longer or the pendulum of right and wrong, of good and evil will not swing again, but because one less tyrant lives on.
This is only possible because as in the words of Charles Dickens,
"think now and then that there is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you."
Those words mean so much more when you meet that Wounded Warrior back home after he or she has lost limbs and been severely wounded in action and yet is at peace with the sacrifice they have made so that we can all be free.
The world is also a better place because of what you have accomplished to date.
You will be the
Builders, judges, healers, protectors, designers, artist, discoverers, thinkers....
The negotiators, coaches, counselors, managers, teachers, workers, soldiers...
You will be the doers and movers, creators and users, fathers and mothers in a generation of much innovation and one which may inspire a new social contract.
So be about the now, focus on the present, be creative and entrepreneurial.
Just as our military Service members live by their loyalty to the Constitution, their values, and their Warrior Ethos,
So should you determine what your own values and ethos are'
And let them guide you in the daily decisions you make in your life.
To be sitting out there....
You have already made good choices.....
Now is your time
Congratulations Class of 2011
America needs you and awaits your leadership.