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News | May 19, 2009

America needs service, Petraeus tells VMI grads

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2009) – The commander of U.S. Central Command told graduates of the Virginia Military Institute during their commencement ceremony yesterday that America needs their service.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told the 249 graduates to recall the wisdom of President Theodore Roosevelt, who said that “far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

A total of 131 graduates in the class were commissioned into the various services. Many, undoubtedly, will serve in U.S. Central Command. Petraeus spoke before more than 5,000 “keydets” and family members at Cameron Hall on campus.

“In choosing to attend VMI, you have demonstrated a clear understanding of the concept of work that is worth doing,” the general said. “Such work is … characterized by commitment to something larger than self, to a greater good, to the service of others.”

This has been the hallmark of graduates since the school’s founding in 1839. “I would submit that now more than ever, our nation and our world need leaders like those developed here — disciplined, intelligent, innovative and courageous leaders who are committed to service,” he said. “Whether in the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan, in the commercial sector or in the domestic political arena, there is much work worth doing.”

Petraeus said the graduates will face frustrations as they move to new fields. “To the new lieutenants in this graduating class: you’ve chosen a unique and wonderful profession, but one in which, again, few tasks are ever simple,” he said. “The frustration of many of the situations with which leaders deal in combat is real and constant.

“For those who will serve in other ways, the challenges will be no less real,” he added, “even though they may be found not on a battlefield, but in a boardroom or a lab, a town hall meeting or a classroom.”

No matter where the graduates go, the general said, the values they have learned at VMI will “prompt you to be relentless and determined in the pursuit of worthwhile work.”