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Remarks of Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, ROTC Commissioning Ceremony

Tercentenary Theatre, Cambridge, Mass.

Colonel Baker, thank you very much for those kind words and thank you even more on behalf of the University for your leadership in educating the young men and women in the ROTC program. Thank you for everything that you do.

ROTC commissioning sends off Harvard officers 
(Harvard Gazette, 6/9/04)

Secretary Roche, it is an enormous honor for us at Harvard to have you with us today. It is an honor also to be with the distinguished guests here, with the military, and with Harvard’s alumni whom I see in attendance. Thank you, Secretary Roche, for being here.

Rafi, Jim, Sam, Dan, Geordie, Will, Steve, Dan, Adam, and J.B.: as a citizen, thank you for what you are going to undertake. As president of the University, congratulations for all you have achieved here and thank you for all you’ve given to this community. Thank you.

As a citizen of our country, thank you to parents – and to the families of these young people – for all that you could give them, for all the support that you are going to provide them. Thank you for helping them to be the wonderful people they are. Thank you to the families.

This is a ceremony that I look forward to every year because it is a ceremony that celebrates people who are doing something profoundly important, because it is an opportunity for me as president of the University to associate the University with something that is very noble and something that is crucial.

We as a nation are strong because we are free, because we are a nation that permits, nurtures, and encourages wonderful communities like this one where anything can be said and any article can be made, whenever it is a commitment to the pursuit of truth. Our strength as a nation rests upon our freedom.

But I would say equally to you – this is the point that must be understood but frankly is often misunderstood – that we are free because we are strong, and that freedom depends on our strength. All of us who cherish and pray for that freedom must also support those who contribute to the strength that maintains our freedom. There is much you can do and should argue about every aspect of our country’s policies but the idea that freedom depends on strength is one we should all be able to agree on.

This year has a particular poignancy and a particular meaning for me. Vince Tuohey, Class of 2002, is serving as a scout platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad. Barrett Bradstreet, Class of 2001, is serving as a rifle lieutenant leader with the Marine Corps. Larry Obst, Class of 2001, is stationed in Tikrit and is working on the same base as Charlie Cromwell, Class of 2002, the first person at Harvard whose commission I was privileged to witness.

Jim Meeks, Class of 2002, an Army second lieutenant, was seriously wounded just last month in Fallujah. Several Harvard students and alums studying in the United Kingdom traveled to Germany to visit with Lieutenant Meeks. His friend, Lieutenant Seth Moulton, Class of 2001, spoke the most eloquent words that have been spoken here in a long time about Jim during a service in Memorial Church shortly following his wounding. Lieutenant Moulton, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, reminds us of the words on the gate to Harvard Yard: “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.”

That is what you are doing. And that is why the ROTC program is so profoundly important to this University.

To the newly graduated officers, always know that the Harvard community will stand by your side.