For some the ceremony marked an opportunity to blaze a new path while for others it felt more like carrying an important family torch.
Under blue skies, surrounded by family and friends, 16 new officers were sworn in as part of the annual joint Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony at Tercentenary Theatre on Wednesday.
The undergraduates, a mix of Navy midshipmen and Army, Air Force, and Space Force cadets, were joined onstage by Lt. Gen. Maria B. Barrett, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, and Harvard President Larry Bacow.
Barrett, a highly decorated officer, continues the legacy of her father — an Italian immigrant who joined the American military in World War II and was awarded the Silver Star.
She welcomed the new officers to their new “second family” in the armed services.
“You will go through many moves together and the support that you have today from other veterans — you will find that support throughout your career of people who have gone before you,” she said.
Barrett advised them to take care of their people, set high standards, and lead by example. She warned that there would be tough challenges ahead but what would make the sacrifices worthwhile was their commitment to a higher purpose.
“This commitment will be hard at times. With responsibility comes decisions that keep you up at night … But I would not be standing here before you today if I didn’t think it was worth it, and I didn’t enjoy what I do — passionately.”
She continued, “My job is to ensure the next generation of leaders is ready to lead our sons and daughters and continue in this noble profession.”
Bacow applauded the new officers for their service and reminded them that they were joining a long line of Harvard students who served their country throughout its history.
“Harvard is proud of this tradition, proud of the intersection of the United States military and what we have to offer,” he said. “You continue a long line of those who come not just from Harvard, but from institutions like us, that value the service that you’re about to provide, that believe in you, and that believe in what each and every one of you will do for our country.”