Plebe-Parent Weekend is one of the few reprieves that plebe, or freshmen, cadets enjoy in their rigorous 47-month experience at West Point. Among the many faces here to visit their cadets and tour the historic grounds was Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and one of the most important leaders in the history of his country.
As a military freedom fighter, Kagame led the resistance force that defeated Rwanda's genocidal government in 1994. As a current world leader, he promotes international accountability in the fight against ethnic extremism.
The president came to West Point March 13 to visit his son, Ivan, a member of the West Point Class of 2013. Kagame also met with senior Academy leadership, toured his son's barracks and also addressed the class during the Plebe-Parent Banquet in the evening.
In his speech inside the Cadet Mess Hall, the president directly addressed the challenges of maintaining security and international relations amid the global threat of terrorism. Though they may appear persistent, Kagame believes there is no reason why a common understanding on sustainable solutions cannot be achieved between nations.
"Security can no longer be perceived solely (through) sovereign state affairs," said Kagame. "What affects one nation has inevitable consequences on others."
Kagame shared with the class a number of concepts directed toward preserving national security. He promoted the adopting of a holistic concept of human security, in which all "citizens (who) are hungry, uneducated, susceptible to preventable diseases and jobless" deserve equal assistance.
The president also advocated addressing the root causes of conflict rather than its symptoms. Many international conflicts remain unresolved because in many cases, symptoms like refugee crisis are treated instead of causes related to government.
In order to promote cooperation between nations, Kagame called for enhanced international response to attacks of terrorism and genocide. He cited that appreciation of sustainable development and adaptation to the changing character of warfare are also strengths in maintaining national security.
During his search for a college his son could attend, Kagame found many prestigious institutions with high academic standards. However, Kagame praised West Point for producing graduates who accomplished great things by following MacArthur's words of, "duty, honor and country."
"There is something additional and crucial you get if you go to West Point," Kagame told the nearly 3,000 people in attendance. "This school develops people into leaders."
At the conclusion of his speech, Kagame was presented with a cadet saber, a token of thanks from the Class of 2013 for taking the time to share his personal leadership insights.
"West Point continues to prepare leaders who area capable of facing both contemporary and future challenges for their country," said Kagame. "I believe that the Class of 2013 (has) at their disposal everything they need to succeed."