An estimated 30,000 people filled the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, May 23 to witness the swearing in of the U.S. military’s newest officers.
The U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2014 graduated 1,068 men and women, including 784 Navy ensigns and 265 Marine Corps second lieutenants.
Graduating first in the class is Marine 2nd Lt. David F. Williams, of Roanoke, Virginia, a political science and economics major who will serve as a Marine ground officer after finishing a master’s degree in Latin American studies at the University of Cambridge, England.
The class included 12 foreign exchange students from Brunei, Ecuador, Georgia, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Maldives, Panama, and Taiwan.
The ceremony recognized four honorary graduates, including the late Midshipmen Nicholas Tarr and Max Allen, members of the Class of 2014 who were killed in vehicle accidents. The other honorary graduates were Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller, Vicky Owens, a member of the Commandant’s staff, Vice President of the Annapolis Inn Alexander De Vivo, and President of the Annapolis Inn Joseph Lespier.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered the commencement address, offering the graduates suggestions for success from his own experiences as an enlisted Army infantryman and from his discussions with enlisted sailors and Marines.
“You must connect with people on a personal level,” said Hagel. “With new technologies and social media making our relationships sometimes seem less relevant, it is more important than ever to be personally invested in your people and build relationships face-to-face. Get to know them. That earns respect.”
Hagel urged the new officers to make an effort to understand different perspectives.
“Being able to see the world through the eyes of others will be critically important,” he said. “Understanding the intentions and experiences of other militaries is a skill that’s vital to our national security.”
While acknowledging that the graduates’ accomplishments to date are something to be proud of, Hagel told them to not allow their confidence in themselves give way to arrogance.
“Humility is about respect. Someone else will always have something to teach you.”
Hagel called on the graduates to be careful with the power they have as role models, particularly when feeling the pressure “to succeed at any cost.”
“Small actions can reverberate in large ways,” he said. “You have the power to inspire and encourage others to do the right thing. Do whatever it takes to make sure everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. That’s what leaders do.”
Hagel said that times of change require leadership not just from the highest levels, but also from the small-unit leaders the members of the Class of 2014 are about to become.
“If you stand together and face your challenges head on, you and your fellow sailors and Marines will be a force for good throughout the world. May you always be officers worthy not only of the people you lead, but the nation you serve.”
This is the U.S. Naval Academy’s 164th traditional graduation ceremony. Since it was established in 1845, the academy has graduated approximately 81,500 Midshipmen including this year’s graduates.
Press Release, May 25, 2014; Image: US Navy