Valedictory Speakers

Perry, Michael C.

President Wright, members of the Board of Trustees, families, and guests. Good evening.

I am honored to be standing here today as the satellite campus valedictory speaker. It is a great privilege to represent the satellite program, as I am allowed to speak for those who embody the time-honored tradition of the soldier-scholar.

I would first like to thank my wife Kim, who has never offered any less than her full support in all of my endeavors, and toiled endlessly to ensure that distraction from my studies would be minimal. I would also like to thank my parents, who surrounded me with books during my childhood, tolerated my insatiable curiosity, and always encouraged independent thinking.

My presence here today is in large part due to the United States Army, not only for taking a long shot 14 years ago on a young man with a 10th grade education, but also in extending to me the recent opportunity to take a break from my duties in order to focus full-time on academics.

I joined the Army when I was 17, seeking some refuge from an increasingly nihilistic lifestyle; any port in a chaotic storm. I soon found more structure than I had bargained for, however, and within a couple of years I found myself once again looking for a way out by raising my right hand in the air. I was a 19 year-old soldier seeking adventure, and the Special Forces seemed like a natural place to look. This was one of the better decisions of my life, and I was soon to find myself in the company of the finest men that my society could produce, larger-than-life figures that could have leapt off the pages of some Ayn Rand novel, they had "been there, done that" and could discuss the details in a variety of languages, but didn't, because that wasn't how quiet professionals conducted themselves.

I would attend my first funeral shortly after my arrival, amidst the dawning realization that all things in life bear a price, and these costs are sometimes enormous indeed. This lesson was hammered home on Friday, as I learned that my friend Nate Chapman had been killed in Afghanistan. For many years we had been sergeants together in the same company, a place he referred to as his "second family." So for my brother, now silent, a few words:

   "No proposition Euclid wrote
   No formulae the text-books know,
   Will turn the bullet from your coat
   Or ward the tulwar's downward blow."
    - Kipling

My Team Sergeant soon encouraged me to go to school at night, a move I viewed with some hesitation after a nearly decade-long hiatus, but upon my return I noticed something quite different. It was no longer an enforced drudgery, something only to be endured until reaching legal age, but was now something fascinating and wonderful, a potential source of answers to a few of the questions that had constantly plagued me, a source of light in the dark.

I was soon to discover that as I resolved old questions, new ones would always arrive, like heads on some mythical hydra springing forth in response to struggle, constantly providing new perspectives, new directions in which to focus, and it is these new directions that will occupy my future studies.

In conclusion, education has added a new dimension to my life, a contrast to the intense clarity and stark realities of military work, and I look forward to the future.

Thank you.