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Remarks at ROTC commissioning ceremony

Cambridge, MA

Lt. Colonel McGonagle, thank you very much for that kind introduction. Thank you for the strong leadership that you give the ROTC program and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this ceremony, this year and every year that I have been president. It is an honor, as a citizen and as president of this university, to be here with you.

Let me, on behalf of all of us, thank the young officers we are going to commission today – Second Lieutenant Brooks, Ensign Cohn, Ensign Craig, Second Lieutenant Dowell, Ensign Payne, Ensign Salamon, Second Lieutenant Sarvis, Ensign Schellhorn, Second Lieutenant Trama – for their service these past four years and their service to our country going forward.

I remember very well one of the most moving, and perhaps the most moving and important, moment in my professional life. The moment was when I took the oath of office to be the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and swore an oath, very much like the one you are going to take, to uphold our Constitution. And I thought there was not anything more important that someone could do than to try and serve their country. I so much admire what you are going to undertake. I admire especially your courage, your devotion as citizens in joining our armed forces at this crucial moment in our country’s history.

In some ways, five years is a long time and in other ways five years is a short time, but it’s long enough that I have had an opportunity to hear some of these stories of the physical courage and of the moral courage of those who we have commissioned in past years’ ceremonies have displayed in their service in Iraq and around the world. It is a remarkable group of people that you are joining and we are all very grateful to you and wish you all the very, very best.

I want also to thank your families for their devotion to you, for their support for you, that has enabled you to come to this point in your service and for what they are making it possible for you to do.

I want to thank all of the many members of the Harvard community and the Harvard alumni community who work so hard to support the ROTC program. I hope and I believe that the ROTC program and the University have drawn more closely into connection these last years. I believe that the opportunities for students to participate in ROTC and the program’s ability to support more students have increased. That certainly has been what I have been trying to do, but I believe that we still have some ways to go.

Whatever you think about any given policy issues – and there are important policy issues on which there is fundamentally divided opinion – whatever you think about any issue, I believe that our country is most important and I believe that our country is best served when great universities like this one stand with those who defend the freedom that makes it possible for us to do all the wonderful things that we are able to do here.

So let me just conclude by saying what I have said each year at this ceremony. America is strong because it is free and America is free because it is strong. And it is strong because of the service of wonderful individuals like those we commission today. Thank you very much.