Mullen Welcomes Grads to Fast-changing World
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2011 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke today of the ever-changing, fast-paced world Florida State University graduates will soon embark on, stressing “no one makes it through the world alone.”
“Quite simply, the world is too fast and changes too rapidly for any one of us to stay on top of it all,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said in his commencement address to the university’s graduating class of 2011. “And in your years here, you have seen a lot of change at Florida State.”
The chairman noted that in the past four years, the students have seen multiple wars, financial crisis and a historic change in administrations.
“And that’s just the football program,” Mullen joked.
Former national champion-winning football coach Bobby Bowden retired in 2009 after leading the Seminoles football program for 33 years. Jimbo Fisher succeeded Coach Bowden and led the Noles to a successful 2010 season.
“But with victories over both Miami and Florida this year and a bowl win, Coach Fisher has shown us that change is not something we need to fear,” Mullen said.
The admiral praised the university’s ability to embrace change, noting efforts throughout its history to always make a higher education an opportunity for everyone.
The university became a co-educational institution in 1947, and expanded to meet the needs of returning World War II veterans. The university, he said, responded to a call to make education available for those who sacrificed and served the nation, redefining the school’s trajectory and mission in a single stroke. The legislation that became the G.I. Bill -- and supportive universities -- allowed millions of veterans to pursue their education following World War II.
“But what that war-time generation went on to do – improving their lives [and making] America the most prosperous and admired nation of the post-World War II era – makes for one of the proudest chapters in our nation’s history,” Mullen said. “I believe these advances were only made possible by a mutual sense of obligation shared with a grateful nation.”
FSU’s relationship with student veterans continues to flourish today, he added.
“We have a new generation of heroes returning from war, supported by a new G.I. Bill,” the he said, noting the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill that was signed into law in June 2008 and is the most comprehensive education benefit veterans have ever had. “President [Eric] Barron and this university have made it a priority, indeed an obligation, to welcome back and support these veterans as they pursue the same dreams their fellow Americans pursue.”
Although FSU and other universities have long and standing traditions of supporting the nation’s troops and veterans, Mullen said worries that relationship between Americans and their military isn’t what it should be.
Fewer than 1 percent of America’s 300-plus million population is now serving in uniform. Americans, one day, may not know or understand those who serve the way they should, he said.
“When I consider how much that 1 percent has repeatedly sacrificed over the last ten years, especially our wounded, their families and the families of the fallen, I think it’s worth asking ourselves as Americans whether we are doing enough to help them, and more broadly, our nation and our communities,” Mullen said. “These concerns for our veterans are not meant to diminish what all of you graduates are facing, [but] as a father of two grown sons, I understand the challenges young people all over the country are confronting in a very tough economy.
“That first job, that first house, starting a family …, and if you think you’re worried, imagine how your parents feel,” he continued.
Americans face very real, very mounting problems at home and abroad, and as citizens and individuals, people must be accountable not only for themselves, but for the livelihoods left behind for their children and future generations, Mullen said.
“The one constant I observe everywhere I go, no matter how war-torn or unstable the place, is that parents just want a better life for their kids,” he said.
Mullen quoted the late Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, from the last speech she gave before her death: “Humanity means that all classes should be enabled to live a life they want and society as a whole should benefit from its fruits.”
Bhutto’s observation is evident throughout the Middle East, Mullen explained, noting ongoing uprisings in Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Syria. The will of people to establish a government according to their aspirations is a basic human desire, he said.
“We are seeing this basic human desire play out right now across the Middle East, where one of the most dramatic developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall is playing out right before our eyes,” the chairman said. “Ordinary citizens, seeking a stronger voice in their own future and an end to arbitrary power, are assembling, protesting and demanding more responsiveness, more accountability, from their governments.”
The peoples’ desires in each of those countries may vary, but each shares the call for freedom, he said. “Free press, free speech, free elections. Opportunity,” Mullen said.
“We cannot now know exactly what course this historic Arab spring will take,” he said. “But this much is already clear: it has not been initiated or exploited by terrorists. It cannot be managed or dictated from afar, and it will not be stolen from the citizens who have given it life.
“It belongs to the people, as our own republic belongs to us,” Mullen continued. “I believe there is something hopefully in what we see happening today, something familiar to us as Americans.”
Working to ensure a better future for your country is a solemn duty, Mullen said, citing that more than 130 nations are represented at the college. “I hope each of you, wherever you are from considers your duty to your nation – to all nations.”
The chairman noted FSU students Jesse O’Shea and Sophia Khwly as examples of selfless service to other nations. Both have been nationally recognized for their work in Haiti. Another student, Chris Roberts, was also recently named FSU’s humanitarian of the year for building houses in needy, local communities, Mullen added.
Mullen also thanked the graduating ROTC cadets and midshipmen as well as graduates pursuing careers as educators, doctors and engineers – all embarking on careers of selfless service, he said.
“All of you join an incredible community of people whose lives have been touched by the Florida State experience,” he said. “Each one of you has the strength, the skill and the character to make a difference.
“Whatever path you choose, I am sure you will bear witness to the call to service so evident here at Florida State,” he said. “I applaud you for sense of duty and citizenship.”