Raddatz urges graduates to build bridges between soldiers and civilians © May 12, 2009 Norwich University Office of Communications
Leadership. Experience. Academic rigor. Service.
Ask graduating students how Norwich University prepared them for the future, and the same themes are repeated.
“We’re all leaders,” said Bernadette Mullally, a nursing major from Colchester, Vt. “Norwich trained us to be leaders in nursing. And the education was exemplary and the clinical experiences have been awesome.”
Mullally, who earned her degree at age 50, was one of about 400 students graduating on Sunday, May 10, 2009, at the 190th Commencement of Norwich University, the country’s oldest private military college. The diploma was a special Mother’s Day gift for this mother of two.
Commencement speakers delivered final lessons to the Class of 2009, recommending that graduates apply their newly earned skills to enrich their community and country.
Journalist Martha Raddatz, who received an honorary degree, urged students to take Norwich’s unique blend of civilian and military disciplines into the wider world.
“Do your part to build bridges between the military and civilian communities,” she said.
Raddatz is senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News. As a reporter for both television and National Public Radio, she has covered the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department. She frequently travels overseas to report on U.S. military operations, including nearly 20 visits to Iraq and earlier trips to Eastern Europe to cover the conflict in Bosnia.
Her experience writing about war and politics, she said, has shown her that the gap between military and civilian communities is widening.
“The military is unknown to many,” she explained. “The military represents less than 1 percent of the nation. There’s been a decline of military experience in the professional class and politics, too. …Less than one-quarter of the Congress served in the military.
“What I have tried to do while covering the Defense Department for 15 years and wars for eight years is try to educate society about what the military is and what the military does,” Raddatz said. “… I sometimes felt like a bridge between the civilian and military communities.”
Of the soldiers she’s interviewed in Iraq, she said, “They feel the burden is theirs and theirs alone. I tell them, they have to reach out to the civilian world as well.”
Norwich graduates, who saw military and civilian lifestyles overlap in classrooms, athletic fields and dining halls, can bring a unique perspective to their communities. She recommended all students, military and civilian, maintain their friendships. Both communities can learn from each other, she said.
“We are one nation, and we must remain united to meet the challenges,” she said.
Raddatz confessed that she dropped out of college, and that this honorary degree is her first.
“I am one of you, and it makes me sound so much younger when I can say I’m the class of 2009,” she said.
Also receiving an honorary degree was A.J. Bartoletto, Class of 1952. As chairman and chief executive officer of Temperform Corporation, a steel foundry, Bartoletto was recognized for his outstanding service to Norwich, his community and his nation.
Norwich President Richard W. Schneider quoted Thomas Jefferson in his final piece of advice to the Class of 2009.
“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘One man with courage is a majority.’ I want you to think about that. You now know the difference between right and wrong. …If you see only one thing wrong, have the courage to do something about it,” he said. “If we had more people in America who did that, we wouldn’t be in the shape we are today.”
Schneider continued, “The worst thing is to remain silent if you know something is wrong. … Every one of you knows the difference between right and wrong.” And if in doubt, he said, look down at your Norwich ring. “If you do that, it will keep you from all kinds of mistakes. Life is not easy. It is not black and white. There’s a lot of gray.”
Emily Jean Poulin, a biology major and one of four valedictorians, reflected on how relationships formed at Norwich gave her fellow students the tools needed to succeed.
“We have met a unique group of people who have changed our lives in some way; close friends who we have lived with for four years and will continue to make a part of our lives when we leave,” said Poulin of Merrimack, N.H. “Rook buddies, roommates, teammates, girlfriends or boyfriends; all the relationships we have formed here have built us into the people we are today.
“What you do with these tools is now up to you. So, go out into the world today, take risks, and don’t be afraid of failure, for the only failure in life is the failure to try. Norwich has taught us to live by the motto: ‘I will try,’ yet another lesson we can take away from our time here.”
Shelby Goudy, a civil engineering major from Maryland who plans to be a pilot in the Marine Corps, is one of 100 cadets in the Class of 2009 who have joined the services. “As first sergeant for Bravo Company and company commander of Gulf Company, [Norwich] prepared me for leadership in the future.”
The commissioning was a highlight of her Norwich experience. “It’s the first day of the rest of my life,” she said.