Wade H. Atkinson, Jr., Valedictorian of the Class of 2021, gave these remarks at Commencement for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 at the Fairmont Hotel on September 11, 2021.
Good morning Mr. Allen, Chairman John Lovewell, Vice Chairman Aldona Woś, Chancellor Lenczowski, President Anderson, Dean Marlo, Dr. Bradley, Class of 2020 and 2021, graduates, faculty, trustees, students, alumni, family, and friends.
Thank you so much for joining us on this 11th day of September 2021 – a date which is both solemn in remembrance and forward-looking with hopeful anticipation of great things to come from those men and women honored with the conferral of their IWP degrees today. We gather here today to celebrate the diligence and achievements of The Institute of World Politics (“IWP”) Classes of 2020 and 2021. I am both humbled and very grateful to be here today representing our graduating Class of 2021. I will be brief, because I know we all want to join the graduation party and reception, which has been 18 months in the making, since the Class of 2020 passed their comprehensive examinations in the spring of 2020. I am sure that the champagne has had time to chill thoroughly!
First of all, Congratulations to the Classes of 2020 and 2021. We finally made it to our graduation! Together, we have made it through all of the challenges that stood before us when we first walked through the doors of the Marlatt Mansion – through orientations, cookouts, presentations, the “Baltic Storm” exercises, Comprehensive Examinations, Covid-19 shutdowns, and Zoom presentations. I believe that we graduates and IWP are emerging stronger and wiser for the obstacles we are still in the process of overcoming due to the pandemic, which delayed today’s wonderful celebration.
We could not have done any of this without the steadfast and enduring support of our loved ones, professors, mentors, and friends. I would like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students at IWP, who have broadened my own perspectives and made my continuing experience at IWP one that I deeply cherish. I would also especially like to thank those who stood behind and supported each of the graduates honored here today. Thank you for giving your utmost to shape the future, not just to the two graduating classes receiving their degrees today, but also to our nation.
President Ronald Reagan gave us many wonderful quotations and words of wisdom, including his advice to: “Surround yourself with the best people you can find.” This quotation best summarizes my feelings toward IWP and those gathered here today. From our distinguished graduation speaker, Richard V. Allen; to our Honorary Doctorate recipient, the incredibly inspiring Lady Blanka Rosenstiel; to our Founder and Chancellor, Dr. John Lenczowski; to the scholar-practitioner ethos found in IWP’s faculty, staff, and student body.
A number of our graduating classmates pursued their studies while practicing their craft, supporting a variety of organizations, in the Armed Forces, on active and reserve duty; in the Departments of Defense, State Department, and Homeland Security; in the U.S. Congress; and in other organizations within our government and the private sector. Other graduates will soon discover their vocations and how best to employ the skillset that they have learned at IWP and apply it for the benefit of their organizations, in both theory and practice. Together, I believe that our two diverse classes exhibit the resourcefulness, entrepreneurial spirit, and resolve that have helped to define the American spirit for nearly 250 years since our Declaration of Independence in 1776. When I look out today at our two assembled classes, these characteristics give me the firmest conviction that the future of our great nation is in very capable hands.
IWP has most certainly prepared us to go out and succeed in our complex and diverse world of constant change. The intelligence, statecraft, and national security skills our Professors have passed on to us are needed now more than ever. As we embark to fulfill our roles within America’s integrated grand strategy, we will face many challenges to the national security interests of our great nation. Through applying what we have learned at IWP and improving upon it, we will be able to successfully go forth and fulfill our roles in countering and overcoming threats against our national security. We will advance the accumulated American ideals and values embodied in President Reagan’s historic reference to America “as a Shining City on a Hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”
Good luck in all of your future endeavors. I look forward to hearing of your continued successes in the future!
Thank you and God bless.