Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Commencement

“To Lead Must Necessarily Mean to Serve”

5.24.17

The newly commissioned officers received a group round of applause near the close of the ceremony. From left, they are second lieutenants Rachel Milam, Luke Pumiglia, and Michael Murray, ensigns John Holland and Lauren Mandaville, and second lieutenant Kira Headrick.

Photograph by Jim Harrison


The newly commissioned officers received a group round of applause near the close of the ceremony. From left, they are second lieutenants Rachel Milam, Luke Pumiglia, and Michael Murray, ensigns John Holland and Lauren Mandaville, and second lieutenant Kira Headrick.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

General John E. Hyten ’81 attended Harvard on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

Photograph by Jim Harrison


General John E. Hyten ’81 attended Harvard on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

President Faust addressed issues of leadership.

Photograph by Jim Harrison


President Faust addressed issues of leadership.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Retired lieutenant colonel Enoch Woodhouse, a former Tuskegee Airman, Yale man, and Boston lawyer, was one of the oldest veterans to attend the ceremony.

Photograph by Jim Harrison


Retired lieutenant colonel Enoch Woodhouse, a former Tuskegee Airman, Yale man, and Boston lawyer, was one of the oldest veterans to attend the ceremony.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Seventy Commencements after George C. Marshall, a five-star U.S. general turned diplomat and U.S. secretary of state, outlined the economic plan for rebuilding post-World War II Europe named in his honor, six Harvard seniors took their own oaths to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office” upon which they were about to enter as commissioned officers in the armed services. At this morning’s annual ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre, family, friends, and returning alumni gathered to celebrate the ROTC cadets and midshipmen commencing their lives’ next challenge.

The new naval officers were John Holland, of West Hartford, Connecticut, a mechanical engineering concentrator with a minor in computer science who will train in naval aviation; and Lauren Mandaville, of Seguin, Texas, a joint concentrator in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and philosophy, who has been selected for training in surface warfare.

Michael Murray, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, a government concentrator with a minor in economics, has been selected for the ground component of the Marine Corps.

Kira Headrick, of Boulder, Colorado, will serve as a pilot in the air force after earning a doctorate in mechanical engineering, her undergraduate field of concentration.

Joining the army are two future physicians: Rachel Milam, of Eagle, Idaho, who concentrated in molecular and cellular biology; and Luke Pumiglia, of Schuylerville, New York, who concentrated in human evolutionary biology.

 

President Drew Faust, a World War II veteran’s daughter, offered congratulations on behalf of the University to the “soldier-scholars and servant-leaders” before her in a brief address focused on the nature of leadership.

“You are receiving your commissions at a moment of extraordinary challenge for our society and the wider world,” she told them, and committing themselves to be leaders “at a moment when we have never needed leaders more.”  Citing a public opinion survey showing that “trust in institutions is low and getting lower,” she pointed out that “one institution seems to have retained the confidence of the American people. Three-quarters of us trust our military,” in which the ethos, “its foundational principle, is to serve…at whatever personal cost.”

“Our free and open society and our democracy are dependent on citizens’ trust,” Faust declared. “Yet individuals and institutions are unlikely to be trusted if they seem to be only about themselves. To lead must necessarily mean to serve”—and the “essence of leadership,” she continued, quoting Colin Powell, LL.D. ’93, a four-star general turned secretary of state, “is building bonds of trust [with]in your organization.” 

“As officers, may you sustain the trust vested in you,” she said. “But may you also provide others throughout American society with a model of the intertwined nature of leadership, service, and sacrifice.” As encouragement, she gave each of the officer candidates a copy of Leadership, an anthology compiled by Elizabeth D. Samet ’91, a professor of English at West Point.

 

The ceremony’s guest speaker, General John E. Hyten ’81, has written that he once thought he’d be in the air force just four years—the length of his ROTC service commitment—only to discover that he’d fallen in love with his job, the tremendous people, and the opportunity to do something he felt made a positive difference in the world. Now, as head of U.S. Strategic Command, his duties include sustaining nuclear deterrence; defending against malicious actors in cyberspace; and preparing for the possibility of a conflict that extends into space. (His subordinates, he would note in his speech, include members of the other service branches, so he congratulated the Harvard candidates on representing four different services and having the opportunity to train together. “We go to war as a joint force,” he told them.)

Speaking 12,672 days (by his reckoning) after his graduation from Harvard, Hyten recalled his own commissioning ceremony 36 years before, which took place in an MIT office with only his family present “because we weren’t allowed to do it at Harvard at that time.” Thanking President Faust warmly for her own leadership in restoring ROTC to campus, he said she took “the steps to ensure that any and every Harvard student could make the admirable and honorable choice to commit him- or herself to our nation’s defense—and she made that happen.”

Turning to the oath of office the candidates would soon take, he pointed out that

the cool part about that oath is that it swears allegiance to the ideals written down on a piece of paper—not to a king, not to a monarch, not to a political party, not to a president—to a Constitution. And that comes with responsibilities. You’re about to go off and lead the men and women of this country, our sons and daughters, and when you go lead, they’re going to expect you to be a leader. And that is going to be an interesting challenge for you, because their oath is a little bit different. Their oath starts the same way…but then they’re going to swear to obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over them. And you’re going to be one of those officers. And when you become that officer, you have to become their leader.

That will include, he emphasized, leading highly experienced noncommissioned officers “who are going to call you ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ on your very first day—and they’re going to expect you to be a leader.” Quoting one of his own mentors, he told the candidates, “Leadership is a gift, freely given by those who follow. You must be worthy of that gift, and that is a hard thing to be.…Take it seriously. Live it every day.”

President Faust’s text is available here.

You Might Also Like:

You Might Also Like: