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The remarks below were given by CPT (P) Gregory Abide, Valedictorian of the Class of 2018. To read more about Commencement, please click here.
Good morning Secretary Mattis, Vice Chairman Lovewell, President Lenczowski, Dr. Bradley, graduates, faculty, trustees, students, alumni, family, and friends. Thank you for joining us today in celebrating the achievements of The Institute of World Politics Class of 2018. I am humbled to be up here today representing our graduating class. I am sorry my fellow graduates have to hear me talk for a couple of more minutes, because I am sure you heard enough of that in class.
I would first like to thank my wife, Angie, for her support, especially as we both attended IWP together for the last two years. I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. I would also like to thank my parents and family for providing a solid foundation in my youth and their continuing encouragement, as well as those military leaders and mentors who have helped shape me throughout my career. Finally, I would like to thank Professors Dave Thomas and John Sano, as well as the rest of the faculty and staff at IWP for their mentorship. You have made the sacrifice to continue your service to our nation by passing on your incomparable knowledge and experience to the graduates in front of you, in order to shape future generations of public servants and leaders.
The education we have received at IWP has prepared us well for success beyond the walls of the institution. We were instilled with the importance of applying a realistic and clearly defined strategy when approaching the challenges of the world, as opposed to utopian, idealistic solutions, which fail to achieve their objectives because they are ill-defined or unachievable. The Institute has provided us with a solid understanding of the Western Moral Tradition and American Founding Principles upon which the United States is based, because without this you cannot effectively represent and defend our nation. Most importantly, in a society where relativistic beliefs are prevalent, we are now prepared to make prudent decisions within our organizations based upon realism and critical analysis, all while guided by moral principles and objective truths.
The Class of 2018 is an excellent example of the scholar-practitioner education model which the Institute embodies in both its faculty and student body. A number of students pursued their studies while practicing their craft, supporting a variety of organizations such as the Department of Defense, State Department, Congress, Department of Energy, and other organizations within our government and private sectors. Other graduates will soon discover their vocations and how to best employ the skillset they have learned here and apply it for the benefit of their organization.
There are three key pieces of advice that I have been given throughout my career which I would like to pass along to my fellow graduates today.
The first is, “Do you want to be good or great?” The late Cpt. Jason McMahon instilled this principle in our company as we were training to deploy to Afghanistan in 2010. He knew that he and the senior non-commissioned officers of our unit were capable of providing us with the necessary training to make us good at our job, but the ability to be great at our chosen profession had to come from an internal discipline and desire that no training could replace.
The second is to always leave an organization better than you found it. Do the basics well, but also identify a major initiative you can accomplish to improve your organization and work to make that a reality.
Finally, always take care of those around you; if you take care of them, they will take care of you. There does not have to be a tradeoff between accomplishing the mission and caring for others. If you have taken care of them, you will have earned the necessary trust and respect needed to accomplish difficult tasks during stressful moments.
IWP has prepared us to go out and succeed in our complex world, and the intelligence, statecraft, and national security skills our professors have passed on to us are in high demand. As we set out to fulfill our roles within America’s integrated grand strategy, we will face many challenges to the national security interests of the nation, to include Iran’s nuclear ambitions, international terrorism, and incessant foreign intelligence threats targeting both our government and industries. Through applying what we have learned at IWP, we will be able to successfully go forth and execute our roles in countering these threats against our national security, all while promoting American values and ideals to the world.
Good luck in all of your future endeavors; I look forward to hearing of your successes. Thank you, God bless.
Above: Valedictorian CPT (P) Greg Abide with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who gave the keynote address at Commencement.