Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer presided over the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) 2019 Winter Quarter Graduation ceremony as the school bid farewell to 212 graduates, including 11 international students, in King Auditorium, March 29.
University president retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau conferred the 212 advanced degrees upon the graduates, and then reminded the new NPS alumni of the higher calling ahead.
“This event is a celebration of individual commitment, perseverance, and accomplishment,” said Rondeau. “You should all be very proud of what you have accomplished here and we look forward to seeing great things of you in the future. Today we celebrate you, but tomorrow our investment in you is what matters.”
Rondeau went on to thank the faculty, staff and loved ones that contributed to the students' successes, while also recognizing the NPS Foundation for providing the university with an important “margin of excellence.”
She then turned the podium over to Spencer, who began his speech with a special recognition of the university, and the graduates’ accomplishments.
“To the graduating winter class of 2019, a hearty congratulations,” exclaimed Spencer. “One of the things that I truly love about NPS, that I have been excited to see continue, is that it is about ready, relevant research. You come in from the fleet, you do your studies, but most importantly, you are now acolytes that go back to the fleet to impart your knowledge of how to do our jobs better.”
“I look forward to the impact you have on the fleet, but I would be remiss to give you all the credit,” Spencer added. “Each one of you has benefited from the support of family and friends along the way. I call them, the PSUs, the primary support units. They make you who you are, so today hug and thank the family and spouses that got you here. They are all part of our national defense strategy.”
Spencer, who himself served as a Marine Corps aviator from 1976-1981, imparted the wisdom behind maintaining relationships with friends, colleagues and mentors.
“From this day forward, you will share a bond of achievement with your classmates,” stated Spencer. “Hold these relationships dear, because if a 65-year-old person standing on a stage can impart one thing on you, it is that a rolodex of friendships will enrich your life.”
Spencer then turned his attention to the importance of innovation, and a return on investment that the American people deserve.
“What I am more concerned about, and what I am more pleased about when I come here, is our cognitive gap,” he continued. “We can have the best airplanes, the best ships, the best guns, the best weapons in the world, but without that grey matter to fight that ship, to fight that platform, we are going to be handicapped. It is up to you to apply your knowledge and increase that cognitive gap.”
Spencer then highlighted experiences both during his time in the Marine Corps and working in the private sector, stressing that the people who face the problem are the ones who often have the best solutions to that problem.
“I can move big boulders when it comes to money, policy and law, but you all have the direct ability to solve the problems that you are facing at your level,” said Spencer. “The education that you received and the research you have conducted, as well as the partnerships that you have forged here, will only enhance your ability to do that down the line.”
In concluding his speech, Spencer left the graduating class with a message of urgency, and a promise he made to the late Sen. John McCain.
“I will break glass, I will not break laws,” Spencer recalled of his testimony to McCain and the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “I will come before you with skinned knees, and if I do not, that means I am not pedaling the bike fast enough. When asked what I learned when I skinned my knees, I should be able to tell you of the learning curve I had and the corrective actions I am going to take.
“That is the kind of organization we must be working in,” he concluded. “I look forward to seeing the impressions you make on your services.”