Read U.S. Army Major William H. Lloyd's address from Commencement 2013
U.S. Army Major William H. Lloyd addressed the graduating class at Penn State Mont Alto’s 2013 Spring Commencement ceremony on May 4, 2013. Following are his remarks.
Dr. Gnage, distinguished guests, Penn State faculty, family members, friends and the graduating class of 2013, good morning. It is truly an honor to be speaking to you on such an important day. This is a great day, not only for the men and women who are graduating and their families, but also for me. I will cherish this moment the rest of my life. In fact, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would have an opportunity like this.
Today I want to talk to you about your dreams. Having the determination, drive, perseverance, the desire to work hard, the will to make sacrifices and never giving up along the way to make those dreams come true. I’d like to share a few personal stories with you regarding the characteristics that I just mentioned that have affected my life to this very day. The first story takes place right here on campus.
I’d like to take you back to the year 1978--my senior year in high school. I applied to Penn State University to persue a degree in forestry. Penn State sent me an acceptance letter telling me I was going to be a freshman at Mont Alto. I thought to myself, "Where the heck is Mont Alto?" I grew up outside of Philly; I had no idea where the Mont Alto campus was located.
I’ll never forget the day my parents drove me out here for freshman orientation. I remember thinking to myself after we got off of Interstate 81, "My parents are lost." I was sitting in the back of the family station wagon getting car sick because of the ride on Route 997. I was nervous and worried about being late. Well, we made it. I finally had my one-on-one with my advisor, "Mr. Encouragement." Still pretty nervous, I met with him in Weisling Hall. The first words out of his mouth after we sat down were: “You probably won’t graduate from Penn State.”
My first words were (nothing). What do you say in that situation? Soon after leaving his office, I told myself if it takes me four years or 10 years I would graduate from Penn State with a degree.
Well, Mr. Encouragement:
1. I graduated from Penn State in just a little more than four years, and I was student teacher my last trimester.
2. I received a Masters Degree in Education from Wilkes University.
3. I’m a graduate of the U.S. Amy Command and General Staff College.
So "Mr. Encouragement," if you are in attendance today, please do not take this personal. Thank you for telling me that I wasn’t going to graduate from Penn State. And look at me now.
The second story centers on my current profession, the Army.
I was a First Lieutenant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, going through my Advanced Field Artillery Officer Course. Toward the end of the five month course, I had the opportunity to sit down with a Captain, "Captain Positive," who was a career counselor. He asked me what I wanted to do while in the Army. I told him one of my aspirations was to teach ROTC at a college or university. And he told me that “there was no way I was going to be able to teach ROTC." He said, "There aren’t many positions out there, and it is very competitive.”
I said to myself, "I will see about that!"
I started applying for ROTC positions after returning from Fort Sill. At the time, I was a school teacher and could take a leave of absence from teaching high school if given the opportunity to teach ROTC. So when the opportunity presented itself, I applied. I had my first interview with Temple University. I was a First Lieutenant at the time, and they told me they were looking for a Captain. I didn’t get the job.
About a year later, a position opened up at Valley Forge Military Academy. I interviewed; they were looking for a Senior Captain. I didn’t get the job. About six months went by, and the positioned opened up at Shippensburg University. I interviewed, but they were looking for a Major. I didn’t get the job. I was starting to see a pattern. Well, I was promoted to Captain. My next interview, after about three years of persuing my dream, was with Penn State. I got the job!
Hey Captain Positive -- After three years of not giving up on my dreams of becoming an assistant professor of military science, I not only taught ROTC once, not twice, but I’m currently on my third tour, teaching at Shippensburg University. But reaching your goals comes with making decisions and making sacrifices. I gave up my dream of becoming a Lieutenant Colonel by taking the position at Shippensburg University. I have four years to go before retiring from the military; and I hope I can spend those years at Shippensburg. I hope to instill the Army values and the warrior ethos into every cadet in the battalion. I will refer to these in a moment.
But, if there something that our future officers can glean from me being at there that saves the life of someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, niece, grandson or granddaughter--then I have done my job, and making Lieutenant Colonel is not so important. So, thank you Captain Positive. My career has been very rewarding, and if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I have been very blessed.
So dream your dreams and never let go. Look around. Four years ago there were over 500 students who started this journey with you. There are only 146 getting their diplomas today. To have gotten to where you are today is commendable. But, as you move on from here, you will undoubtedly suffer some setbacks along the way. Even if you fail and fall many times, that's OK - just get up, dust yourself off and move on!
In the final analysis, the strength of your character comes not from how you react to your successes--of which I know there will be many. The strength of your character comes from how you react to your failures--of which there also will be many. So, always believe in yourself, persevere, but be willing to adapt. Today you will close a chapter in your book of life. Tomorrow you will start a new one. As you get older, that book will continue to grow. You will finish chapters and start new ones.
As an Army Officer, I take great pride in putting this uniform on every day. I tell my students that if they live the rest of their lives by following the Seven Army Values, whether they are in the uniform or not, they will have a very self fulfilling life. I’d like to share them with you today. Please take these with you today, and take a moment later on to embrace them.
1. Loyalty – Be loyal to your family, yourself, this nation and its heritage.
2. Duty – Fulfill your obligations. Take responsibility for your own actions. Find opportunities to improve yourself.
3. Respect – Treat people how you would like to be treated at all times.
4. Selfless Service – Put the needs of your family and friends before your own.
5. Integrity – Do what is right, legally and morally. Be willing to do what is right even when no one is looking.
6. Personal Courage – your ability to face fear, danger or adversity, both physical and moral courage.
7. Honor – Uphold these values and live by them in all you do.
Savor this moment. Look around at your classmates. This is a day you will always remember. There will only be one just like this. After the ceremony, look into the eyes of your parents, or your grandparents, or whoever helped you here this day. Thank them. Tell them you love them. Savor the moment. Enjoy it all. So dream those dreams and make them a reality with hard work, enthusiasm and desire. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live life as you’ve always imagined.
I would like to thank my wife Suzanne, who unfortunately could not be in attendance on this special day. Her support in the last 30 years has helped me become the person I am today. Thirty years ago she gave me a little orange card while we were dating, and I have carried it with me ever since. I took it to Iraq with me and had it pinned up to my wall locker. I would see it in the morning and in the evening when I got back to my barracks. It helped me get thru some challenging times, and I’m a better person for it.
The title is Don’t Quit. Here’s the first stanza of the poem:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road your climbing seems all up hill,
When funds are low and debts are high,
When you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is getting you down a bit,
Rest if you must - but don't you quit.
And, for that, you have my heartiest encouragement and congratulations.
Thank you. And God Speed.