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Dempsey Urges Alma Mater Grads to ‘Push the Envelope’

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2012 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned to his high school alma mater today to encourage the John S. Burke Catholic High School graduating class to embrace new opportunities in a demanding, fast-changing world.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers remarks at the John S. Burke Catholic High School commencement ceremony held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., June 9, 2012. The high school, located in Goshen, N.Y., is Dempsey's and his wife Deanie's alma mater. DOD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sun L. Vega, Joint Staff

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The chairman addressed the graduates of the school, based in Goshen, N.Y., in an auditorium at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., from which he graduated in 1974.

“Push yourself to explore space you haven’t considered before, to lead where leadership is required and to keep options open -- because life will deal you changes and challenges you’ll have to figure out,” Dempsey told the 2012 class.

“The future will find you,” he said. “Be ready.”

Dempsey and his wife Deanie both are Burke High graduates, and he was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2003. He told the new graduates today he’s never forgotten his roots, and how his own high school experiences prepared him for what was ahead.

Recognizing the many high achievers in this year’s class, the chairman cautioned them not to rest on past accomplishments. “No matter how successful you’ve been up to this point, you need to keep working to be better than you think you can be,” he said.

It’s a lesson he said he learned quickly after arriving at West Point with his solid Burke record. “I realized that I had to keep getting better,” he said. “I realized that never settling for mediocre is one of our enduring national traits. As a nation, we dare to be great.”

Dempsey urged the students to be willing to take the risks as they “push the envelope” and embrace new opportunities.

“Many of you will exceed your wildest imaginations,” he said. But in doing so, he encouraged them to stay true to their moral compasses and never lose sight of their values. “Prioritize what’s most important to you,” and keep those priorities in order, he said.

As they apply the lessons they’ve learned to overcome obstacles they confront, Dempsey urged the class to serve, whether in the military or other endeavors. He congratulated those headed to military academies or ROTC units, and said other graduates may find their calling to serve in other vocations.

Dempsey said he looks forward to seeing the new graduates make a difference and impact society as they help influence the future.

“Your life takes on meaning only as the causes to which you attach yourself have meaning,” the chairman said. “The greatest value of a life is to spend it for something that lives after it. “

“In the end, you become what you are through some cause you have made your own,” he concluded.


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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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