By Gen. George W. Casey, Jr.November 3, 2010
General George William Casey, Jr.
Georgetown University ROTC Commissioning
21 May 2010
General Casey: Good morning. As I look out there at all the proud parents, grandparents and surprised brothers and sisters, I'm reminded that nothing brings a family together more than organizing in a strange place to go to an early morning ceremony. [Laughter]. It's great to have you all here.
Jack [DeGioia], thanks for having me back here. This is my fourth commissioning here. Three as the Chief and one as the Vice Chief a few years ago. This is an especially important one for me because as you heard, this is my 40th Anniversary of my commissioning here. More on that later.
Caroline Hester, congratulations to you on being selected as the Dean of the Washington School of Foreign Service. To my colleagues from the other universities [supporting ROTC], thank you for giving [your students] the opportunity to serve.
I said this is my 40th commissioning anniversary. I know you're looking at me thinking, "I hope he makes it through the speech." But 40 years ago I used to sit [out there where you are]. [But on that day,] I was having a bad day. I was sure that barber shops in Arlington opened at 8:30 on Saturday morning. They did not. [Laughter]. I was supposed to be here getting lined up at 9:00 o'clock. [But,] at 9:00 a.m. I was walking into a barber shop in Fort Myer and believe me; not getting my hair cut wasn't an option.
I got the haircut, jumped on my motorcycle, raced back to my apartment in Arlington. The only smart thing I did in that whole 24 hour period was put my uniform together the night before. I threw on my uniform, jumped back on the motorcycle, raced up here. I parked my motorcycle at the bottom of the steps, raced up the stairs, just as the professors were filing into the auditorium.
This tall captain, who apparently had been looking for me for an hour, saw me. He came over to me and grabbed me by the tie. Just at that moment the elevator doors opened and my mother, grandmother, grandfather, brothers and sisters [all] walked out. And I heard my mother say, "Oh, look at the nice man helping George." [Laughter]. To this day I'm not sure whether he was trying to fix my tie or choke me. [Laughter].
Anyway, I slid into my seat, trying to be as unobtrusive as I could. I thought it was all over. When I went up to get my commission the colonel shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, "I'm glad to see you could make it today." [Laughter]. So this [my] career began from humble beginnings, and believe me, there wasn't even a glimmer of a thought that I'd be here. [Laughter].
I'd like to recognize the parents this morning and to thank you for the role that you've placed in shaping your sons and daughters. The values, the ideals, the drive, the determination that you've instilled in them have made them the men and women that they are today. Your influence will serve them well as they join out ranks as the newest leaders in our Army. And one day, maybe one day, they may even appreciate what you've done for them.
I'd also like to thank the faculty and the ROTC cadre, as you all have helped shape these young men and women and given them great direction.
So cadets, how about getting on your feet and giving a round of applause to your parents, faculty, and to the ROTC cadre.
Well done, you follow orders well. [Laughter]. Please sit down.
Now, [I turn back] to the cadets. I know you're all probably feeling pretty good today. You're terrific young scholars, athletes, and leaders, and your country needs you to be all of these. Your parents, professors, Tactical Officers and NCOs have put you to the test and you've responded with focus, intensity and purpose. Congratulations to you.
I'd like to take just a few minutes to talk about the Army that you're joining and about serving your Nation in a time of war. For starters, you're joining an organization that's the best in the world at what it does. It's an organization that has been at war for nearly nine years, and never lost a battle. It's a combat seasoned, all volunteer force that believes our freedoms are worth defending. It's comprised of magnificent Soldiers who are out there every day making a difference in our very complex world.
I'll also tell you that you're joining a family-an Army family that takes care of each other. And like the generations of Citizen-Soldiers who have answered the call to defend America's freedoms-you've chosen to serve. This morning you'll raise your right hand and pledge to support and defend the constitution of the United States, knowing that your country is at war.
Most of you were probably in grade school when terrorists attacked us on September 11th, 2001. Today, America is still at war with that global extremist network. We're involved in a decades-long ideological struggle, and I believe that the decades ahead will be ones of what I call an era of persistent conflict-a period of protracted confrontation among states, non-states, and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. Now that may be a little bit of my foreign service background leading into this, but that's our new reality. Make no mistake about it, there's quite a bit at stake.
At stake is nothing less than the power of our values and our ideals. At stake is whether the authority of those who treasure the rights of free individuals will triumph over those ruthless men who want [to enslave] the defenseless. At stake is whether the future is framed by the individual freedoms that we hole so dear, or dominated [by demented forms] of extremism. At stake is whether we will continue to extend freedom, opportunity and decency to all who thirst for that or let fall into the darkness of extremism and terror.
We face a complex and difficult world, and a complex and difficult challenges, but we will prevail. We will prevail because we have men and women like you who have answered the call and are willing to lead. Because in the end, it is all about leadership. It's about leaders of character and intellect. Its leaders who make ordinary men and women do extraordinary things, and that's really the story of our Army, the story of the Army that you're joining today.
About two weeks ago I spoke at a ceremony in the Pentagon that honored this year's MacArthur Leadership Award Winners. These are the 25 best captains in the United States Army. Three or four years ago they were sitting where you are today. Let me just share with you some of the things that these terrific men and women have done in a few short years, and it's likely that you'll be called on to do many of those things.
They've commanded in combat. They've lead raids against extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've coordinated hundreds of combat engagements with skill and coolness under fire. They've built personal relationships with leaders from other government agencies, indigenous forces, and village elders. They've built and organized local security forces. They've trained police. They've coordinated reconstruction projects. They've also written books and done research, expanding their influence far beyond the men they lead. They have made a difference in the world.
You are ready to follow in their footsteps, and in a few minutes you'll be our Army's newest second lieutenants. It will be leaders like you that lead this country to victory in its most difficult challenge yet. I'm very proud of you because you epitomize what is best about the United States of America.
I said earlier that you're joining an Army that's the best in the world at what it does. We are that way because of our values, because of our ethos, and because of our people. And in a short time I have no doubt that you'll face difficult situations, but the values instilled in you by your parents and grandparents and the training that you will receive will keep you grounded and you will inherently do the right thing. You'll accept and uphold standards, and you'll accomplish your missions. Your subordinates will render you respect, sight unseen, because of officers that have gone before you.
And as you reach your first assignment and realize that these terrific, combat seasoned soldiers depend on you, you'll vow to never let them down. You'll embody what we call 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. You won't fail, you'll lead.
I'll close here with my favorite quote from Theodore Roosevelt. It's a quote that embodies the boldness that I know sits in each of your hearts today and it embodies the spirit that will allow you to meet it. "It is not the critic [who] counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who [strives] valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again" and "Who, at the best, knows in the end [knows the value of] the triumph of high achievement; and who, if at the worst," if they fail, "at least fails while daring greatly, so that" their soul will never be counted among "those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Dare great things, young leaders, and welcome to the profession of arms.