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Vice Chairman Delivers Commencement Remarks at Webster University

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, May 13, 2017 — The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided commencement remarks this morning at Webster University in St. Louis.

Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo

“I don't stand here because I'm the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, who stood on the stage outside in the sun as he addressed the graduates.

“I get to stand here because I represent a million-plus soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who defend freedom and liberty around the world,” he added, “and by honoring me today you honor them.”

Webster University opened its first military campus in 1974 and now provides educational programs on 14 Air Force, 15 Army, three Marine and five Navy installations in the United States. The university also has locations in Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Country’s Future

Selva said he considers the opportunity to present the commencement address as a privilege.

“I do truly consider this a privilege,” the general said. “It's not just a milestone in your lives, the opening of a new chapter. But I do personally consider you our future. You're the future of this country, and many of you are the future of the world.”

VIDEO | 00:37 | Selva Offers Career Advice to Webster University Graduates

For many graduates, their time at Webster has been a journey of dedication, of determination and a bit of an adventure, he said, describing the paths taken by some of the graduates.

“There are some amazing stories,” Selva said. “Sometimes you got tested ... but there are some amazing stories in your midst, and I'd like to share just a couple of them.”

The general described the journey of one Marine veteran who was injured in training and after surgery returned to St. Louis and became an officer and later a detective with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, earning undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Webster.

He also talked about a group of young women graduating from Webster today under the Egypt Education Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

VIDEO | 01:11 | Selva Discusses Story of Webster University Graduate

“These women will go home and make a difference in Egypt's journey to democracy,” Selva said. “What an amazing thing to travel halfway around the world, bring their culture to us and become part of this model of global citizenship.”

A Different Window

Webster is also making a mark in the area of information technology and cybersecurity, he added, noting that a number of graduates sitting near the stage are going into that industry. But he offered what he called “a different window” into what happens with the products of that field.

“I’m not bashful about spending a couple of hours in front of a video game and surrendering myself to the environment that you create,” Selva said. “But while you think it’s about entertainment, I look at its impact on how we train soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines through advanced simulation and technology. I look at the difference it makes in the lives of people who use the artificial intelligence software and adaptive logic that you build into a game.”

He added, “One of you is going to invent the next piece of software that changes the way we look at big data. One of you is going to make an advance in medicine that we haven't even figured out yet. One of you is going to unlock the power of all of that intellectual energy that goes into building … [what] we call entertainment.”

Selva offered his congratulations to the graduates.

“The future is huge. All of you have a place in it. And all of you will make a difference,” he said.

Before making his address, Selva received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the university.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)