I suspect that if I polled the parents of our graduates
today, less than half of those who went to college would be able to tell me who
gave the commencement speech at his or her graduation. Two decades from now, this
will not be true for today’s graduates. We are indeed fortunate to have with us
a person who, at a relatively young age, has already achieved a place of honor
in modern American history. At this stage in George C. Marshall’s career,
America had not yet entered World War II, and Marshall had another 14 years of
distinguished public service ahead of him.
Like George Marshall, David Petraeus had an extraordinary
military career. At the time of his retirement last August, he had risen to the
rank of General, and had served in command positions in Iraq, Afghanistan and
the U.S. Central Command. In all of
these roles he had a transformative impact on the mission.
Our speaker is also similar to Marshall in his success at
transitioning from the armed services to a position of civilian leadership in
Washington. It is worth noting that Dr. Petraeus was confirmed as Director of
the Central Intelligence Agency by a Senate vote of 94 to 0—at a time when
members of Congress don’t seem to be able to agree on what day of the week it
One area in which our guest is almost unique among the
select community of national security professionals is in his academic
achievements. After graduating in the top 5 percent of his class at West Point
David Petraeus went on to obtain Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton
University. He applied many of the insights from his Doctoral dissertation when
he played a leading role in the development and subsequent application of the
Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. This helped to convince Newsweek
to christen Dr. Petraeus and his team “the brainiac brigade”.
It is particularly appropriate for this scholar-soldier to
be speaking here at Dickinson College today, since this institution is in the
forefront of a national effort to sponsor productive dialogue between students
at liberal-arts colleges and military-education institutions. Dickinson has
also been recognized by the U.S. Army for its innovative proposals for the
improvement of the ROTC curriculum.
It is also quite appropriate for our guest to be here today
since he has two very strong connections to Dickinson. Holly Petraeus, his
partner through 37 years and 23 moves, is a summa cum laude graduate of
Dickinson. She currently serves as Director of the Office of Servicemember
Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the U.S. Treasury
Department. Holly and David are also the parents of Anne, Dickinson class of
2004, who could not be with us today.
Mr. President, for his distinguished career as a soldier,
statesman and strategist; for his fulfillment of the highest standards of
engaged citizenship, as established by our founder, Dr. Benjamin Rush; and for
his record of success at both exercising power and speaking truth to power—it
is my distinct honor to present to you Director David Howell Petraeus for the
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service.
David H. Petraeus, upon the recommendation of the Faculty to
the Board of Trustees, and by its mandamus, I confer upon you the Degree of
Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges, and
distinction thereunto appertaining, in token of which I present you with this
diploma and cause you to be invested with the hood of Dickinson College
appropriate to the degree.