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2017 Valedictory Remarks by Andrew Harris

Please note: These are Andrew’s personal views and do not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Army. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) or Military-themed visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Andrew Harris speaking at Commencement 2017Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, Chairman Owen Smith, President John Lenczowski, Dean Mackubin Owens, Dr. Hadley Arkes, IWP trustees; and to all our distinguished guests, friends and family of the Class of 2017, and classmates, welcome.

I would like to thank Dr. Lenczowski for his leadership of this institution and the energy he brings to it.  If you don’t know, every student at IWP sits down for a social hour with the President of this Institution during their first and last semesters.  I don’t know of any other graduate schools with leaders who do that, and I think that’s a microcosm of what makes this school great.  I’d like to thank Professors David Thomas and John Sano for their guidance and mentorship while I was a student.  Thank you, Mr. Clyde Harthcock for supporting me here today.  And I want to thank LTC Stephen Wright and COL Dane Acord from Fort Polk, and Dr. Michael Livingston from The Citadel for recommending me to IWP about two years ago.

One of the expectations of this school is that you are going to become leaders at some point.  Some of you already are in various capacities.  There are many who are more qualified than I to speak on leadership, but I hope I can honor them by passing on some of their wisdom.  As a leader you essentially must do three things.  First, you must offer your followers something that they do not already have and that somehow improves their lives.  Second, you have to love them — to genuinely care about their welfare; a love that is not genuine will reveal itself in times of adversity.  And then you have to make decisions; they won’t all be good decisions, and some may be terrible.  But as long as you have the first two things, then you will likely remain a leader to your followers.  Authority exposes and amplifies the character of the one who holds it.  Some aspect of you — your personhood — will be imprinted on the organizations that you may lead; but you will not likely get to choose what aspects those are — good or bad.  So this is why it’s critical that we be people of integrity and that we maintain perspective on why choose to embark on our chosen professions.

Remember that this work that we do — the advancement of our national interests and the cause of peace — is not one that leads to fame.  Our role in this enterprise is not to seek accolades but provide an indispensable service to the Nation.  We may go on to perform various services for the United States from security to diplomacy, or to corporate activities.  Thanks to the faculty of this school, we should understand that whatever our labors may be, they join the labors of thousands of our peers and forerunners, and that in some small way they each support the noblest and freest national endeavor that mankind has ever known.

Ronald Reagan’s words are most fitting to the gravity of the responsibilities that many of us will shoulder: “It is upon our intellect and integrity, our wit and intuition that the fate of freedom rests for millions of our countrymen and for many millions more all around the globe.”  Whether working for the Department of Defense, State, the IC, Law Enforcement, or other entities that support them, our place of duty will be the ramparts of the free world.

It’s a good time to go into this business, and we have the best job security of any sector in society.  American national institutions and the liberal international order that our predecessors built are under attack, and the cultural foundations on which our civilization and our diverse society rest are weakening from within.  The education we received here imbues us with an appreciation of those ethical and philosophical groundings, our values, and our history which have made American society work and prosper.  Now our task is to join the bulwark against political entropy, “to help defend… decent civilization wherever it may be found.”

Valedictory Remarks by Andrew Harris, IWP Commencement 2017