Good evening. It is my pleasure to represent tonight the academic and administrative leadership of the colleges and universities that make up the Bison Battalion. I have entitled my brief comments "Winston Churchill and the Times of Your Lives."
Why Winston Churchill? Because you are fortunate to be commissioned on the anniversary of the date in 1940 on which Winston Churchill took power as the prime minister of Great Britain. You may remember the most famous part of his acceptance speech: "All I have to offer is blood, toil, tears, and sweat." Sounds like the Bison Battalion recruitment pitch?
I mention Churchill as a reminder of the times of your lives- times plural. Churchill assumed office at a particular time in his own life and at a particular time in history.
In the same way, you are being commissioned at particular times in your lives-and I want to focus briefly on three times: individual, family, and historical.
Let's start with you as an individual. Your commission is the culmination of a time of great growth and development, what the psychologist Erik Erikson has labeled a period of identity development. You have chosen a path of individual challenge, service to others, and leadership. My hope for you is that you continue to have what Erikson and his colleagues call "vital involvement" in life. Be engaged and engaging and the rewards will follow.
But your transition tonight is not a solitary one. I would ask all family members and friends in the audience to please rise and be acknowledged by our cadets for all that you have done to support them on their leadership journey. Thank you.
Cadets, you and your families are members of an elite group. Less than 1 percent of the US population serves in the military today, but as a recent report (Strengthening Our Military Families) reminds us, they and their families bear 100 percent of the burden of defending our nation.
Which brings me to the third type of time: historical time. When I was in high school and college, our nation was engaged in the Viet Nam War. For my generation, World War II and Churchill were closer than the Viet Nam war is to your generation. You have come of age in an era of challenge and conflict. Almost 2/3 of your young lives have occurred since 9/11. And yet you chose a path of readiness and leadership. Congratulations on challenging yourselves in the classroom, on the range, and in your summer training.
I want to close with words from a Taoist meditation that may help sum up the lessons you've learned from both your successes and your failures over the last four years:
"Goals are important. Forbearance is also important. But the very process of struggle is equally important. ...Adversity is the tempering of one's mettle. Without it, we cannot know any true meaning in our accomplishments....the gem of meaning is set in the metal of long perseverance."
Congratulations, cadets. Like, Churchill, you have risen to the challenge of your times. You have turned blood, toil, tears, and sweat into the sweet smell of success. Good luck in taking the important lessons you've learned in the Bison Battalion with you on life's journey.