Five graduating seniors and their families were all smiles despite the steady downpour drenching participants in this year’s commissioning ceremony for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), held Wednesday (June 4).
The morning began with an informal ceremony, during which the officer candidates took their oaths with family and friends before the statue of John Harvard, prior to their official swearing in at the Tercentenary Theatre.
In his opening remarks, Army Lt. Col. Leo R. McGonagle, director of the ROTC at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Harvard students cross-register, said this year’s students were “even more notable since they are post-9/11 volunteers who have willingly stepped forward to defend our nation in time of war.” He reminded them that “there is no way to predict in what ways your nation will call upon you to lead” and exhorted them to “recognize that leading American service members is an affair of the heart.”
The most anticipated speaker of the day, of course, was Harvard President Drew Faust.
“You have gone the extra mile, literally,” she said at the beginning of her speech, drawing chuckles from the families of students who had to start each morning earlier than their roommates in order to make their way to MIT for classes. Faust mentioned Harvard’s long association with the nation’s military, from the construction of Memorial Hall after the Civil War to that war’s 20th Massachusetts Regiment, known as “the Harvard Regiment” because of its large number of Harvard-educated officers.
“The freedom we enjoy depends” on those in the military, Faust said. “I wish there were more of you. I believe that every Harvard student should have the opportunity to serve in
the military, as you do, and as those honored in the past have done.”
She called the country’s colleges and universities “places where not just minds can flourish, but hearts can be nourished as well,” noting that the United States has “long turned to education to nurture the equality fundamental to our national purposes.” The military, too, she said, has served as a path toward citizenship and American life “because of the inexorable logic of inclusion without regard to accidental condition or circumstance.
“These are the principles that have made Harvard what it is, have made the military what it is, and have made the United States what it is.”
She expressed “profound appreciation” to the ROTC officer candidates and their families.
The second speaker of the day was retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tad Oelstrom, director of the National Security Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He began by thanking the ROTC, the candidates, their families, the group Advocates for Harvard ROTC, and the president, saying her “presence is a powerful statement to the community, a powerful statement to the University, and a powerful statement to these young people as they transition from student to officer.”
He asked the candidates, “What does your future hold?” and answered his own question: “I would start with excitement. Strap in tight.” He challenged them to spend every day that they’re in uniform trying to improve today’s military, and reminded them to “know on whose shoulders you ride.” He stressed the importance of teamwork and told the students to remember that their success depends on those around them, “and most of those won’t be your superiors.
“As leaders,” he continued, “you’ll be on stage every minute, and your audience expects a flawless performance. I know you are ready.”
Finally came the official oath of office, taken by only three ROTC candidates present, as Air Force candidates will become officers on Oct. 1, 2008.
The five new — or soon-to-be — officers are:
• Michael J. Arth will be officially commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force in October. He is receiving an A.B. in government; after his commissioning this fall he will report to undergraduate pilot training at a location yet to be determined.
• Roberto Guerra will also be officially commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force in October. At that time, he will attend Space and Missile School at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, Calif. He is graduating from the Harvard Extension School with a liberal arts degree in management.
• John D. Reed, a Navy ensign, graduates from Harvard College with an A.B. in economics, and is commissioned as a student naval pilot. After being stationed at MIT’s NROTC unit this summer, he will report to Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Fla., in the fall.
• Jason Scherer, a second lieutenant in the Army, will enter service in the Michigan National Guard as a dental candidate, and will attend the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in the fall to pursue his doctorate. He graduates from Harvard College with an A.B. in biological anthropology.
• J. Danielle Williams, also a second lieutentant in the Army, graduates as an engineer officer from Harvard College with an A.B. in government. This fall, she will report to the 20th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Campbell, Ky.