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Valedictory Remarks by Kevin Phelan

The remarks below were given by Kevin Phelan, Valedictorian of the Class of 2023, at Commencement on May 13, 2023.

Faculty, staff, family, friends, guests, and classmates, good morning and thank you for being here to celebrate The Institute of World Politics Class of 2023. I am incredibly honored to stand here before you today and am grateful for the opportunity to share a few brief reflections on my time at IWP.

First and foremost, congratulations to all of my fellow classmates. Today marks the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, both in the build up to, and during our time at IWP. Together, we weathered COVID restrictions, Zoom classes, simulated exercises, group projects, exams, papers, and briefings. As most of you in the room know, my fellow graduates are gluttons for personal, academic, and professional growth. All of them completed their studies alongside other commitments, including to their families, careers, and communities, making it all the more impressive. It was truly a privilege to be surrounded by such accomplished, devoted, and passionate individuals who brought unique insights and diversity of thought to IWP.

None of us would be here today without the support and guidance from our loved ones, friends, and professors. I would personally like to thank my parents for affording me so many opportunities to get to where I am, as well as my girlfriend and friends for graciously tolerating my very busy schedule. I would also like to thank my classmates; from student government BBQs, to happy hours, and even poker nights, you have all made this a truly memorable experience. We are all also immensely indebted to the faculty and staff at IWP for all their hard work, experience, and knowledge.

We are graduating from IWP at a critical time. Over the past several years, there have been seismic shifts in the international arena, with unprecedented threats to the rules-based international order and a rapid reorientation towards great power competition. The world only continues to grow more complex, and new challenges emerge every day. While daunting, I have absolute faith in the fact that the men and women graduating today have the knowledge, skills, tools, and resolve to make a difference and shape our world for the better. Through my own experience, I have already met graduates who are briefing the highest levels of the Department of Defense, leading interagency task forces on vital national security issues, and bridging the gap between intelligence and Congress. Regardless of where your careers take you, whether it is national security, diplomacy, non-profit work, the private sector, or something you never expected, I am confident in your ability to be a positive agent of change.

“The world needs leaders who are not only knowledgeable and adept at navigating the complexities of the global landscape, but who are also principled and guided by a moral compass.”

As we go out in the world, we must carry with us the values and principles instilled in us at IWP. The world needs leaders who are not only knowledgeable and adept at navigating the complexities of the global landscape, but who are also principled and guided by a moral compass. As such, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to advance freedom, security, and prosperity wherever we go. We must also remember that we have formed lasting relationships with classmates, faculty, and staff who share our principled passion for global affairs. We must leverage these connections as a source of support and inspiration throughout our careers.

Finally, in true IWP fashion, I will leave you with a quote from President Reagan; “the future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.” No matter the obstacle or challenge, I have every confidence that my fellow classmates will overcome adversity, rise to the occasion, and bravely excel in whatever they choose to do. Once again, I want to congratulate the IWP class of 2023, and I look forward to hearing about all your future successes. Thank you.

Read more about IWP Commencement

Kevin Phelan speaking at IWP Commencement