Saturday was Graduation Day for us, when the graduating class took their oaths and were commissioned as second lieutenants. It was a good day and a good speech by the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, and a good ceremony, where I was happy to see a number of the cadets I’d worked with receive awards and recognition. And the military attention to the particulars of ceremony, if you’ve never seen such stuff, drew some emotion. Even though I knew what was coming, it was hard to resist feeling the grin and the slight tightness around my chest when the final words of the ceremony came, directed at the class of 2008, in the form of a preparatory command and a command of execution, with the emphasis on the second syllable of the command of execution:
“Class — dismissed!”
The Secretary of the Army’s speech was impressive. Low-key, certainly, and wide-ranging, as one tends to expect for graduation speeches, but he set as one of his introductory motifs Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 Bill for Religious Freedom, which states, in part, that
No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief.
Secretary Geren spoke out strongly against those who he called “zealots” who would oppress, restrain, molest, or burden those who do not share their religious beliefs, and while the implicit reference to the Taliban was clear, the fact that he did not qualify his critique suggests to me that it was likely aimed at zealots not only of one particular faith. And I find that commendable.