06/09/16 – Ambassador Mark W. Lippert Commencement Address, Humphreys High School June 9, 2016

Ambassador Mark W. Lippert Commencement Address, Humphreys High School June 9, 2016

Ambassador Mark Lippert
Humphreys High School

June 09, 2016 :

Thanks, everybody.  Good evening — a very happy, joyous occasion.  Ms. Castro, thank you for your excellent speech.  Thank you for your kind introduction.  I keep looking around for that someone of high regard, but anyway.  And, Mr. Kim, thank you for your speech as well – well done.  Principal, thank you for the kind invitation, Colonel Hollander as well. And there is another high-ranking military official in here somewhere, but I’m told that I have to keep him under wraps, so I’ll stop there.  

But this is all a long way of saying, to the third class here of Humphreys high school – the class of 2016, “Thank you and congratulations.”  And as one of the few remaining people standing between you getting your diploma, getting the heck out of here, and spending time with your friends and family, I assure you I will be brief.

This occasion does have a very special meaning for me personally. My mother grew up as a daughter of a career Air Force officer – the daughter of a fighter pilot. Listening to my mom describe her childhood when I was growing up, I knew she had a great time, a great affinity, for being in and around the military. That community, in some ways, became a part of her larger family, as we heard from some of our earlier speakers here today.

She worked at the PX, talked about her time overseas in Germany, told me about her brother’s decision –my uncle– to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an air force pilot — one who ultimately served in Vietnam and elsewhere.

But at the same time, I know from my mother how hard being part of a military family can be. I heard the statistic here — ten new members of the senior class PCSed [Permanent Change of Station] in this year. In her experience, she had to move every two years, make new friends, and settle into a new community. This is on top of when your parents deploy, work long and strange hours, or have to fly somewhere half way around the world on a moment’s notice.

So you may be wondering why the ambassador is using the first part of this short speech to talk about some sea story about his mother.

It’s really a long way of saying, “Thank you.” Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your commitment. Simply put, the United States military, the United States of America, could not do it without you.

So, this is a time to say thank you. It’s also a time to say, “Congratulations.” As they say in the navy — I think I’m the only sailor in here — “Bravo Zulu,” a strange navy custom, along with gee dunk and other strange terms sailors use.

And in Korean, “Chuk-ha-hae-yo,” “Chuk-ha-ham-ni-da.” Congratulations.

Well done. And as we stand here today, regardless of where you graduated in your class, where you are going, I just want to spend the last two to three minutes on my final topic, a topic that is near and dear to my heart as U.S. ambassador.

I can say with great confidence that I believe each and every one of you will go on to do fantastic things, professionally, personally, socially. But as you spend your life working on these great endeavors, great things, I am asking you –I am challenging you– to not just be community leaders, not just be American leaders, but also be global leaders and citizens.

What do I mean by this? I mean being involved in, actively aware of, and working on the challenges that impact not just your community, not just your country, but impact the world.

I am not saying everyone should go out and be a diplomat, join USAID, join the military, or be a Peace Corps volunteer, but what I am saying, I can summarize in five quick points.

First, being a good global citizen is no longer optional. It’s required. Our world’s most difficult, challenging, and complex problems are global in nature. So it will take global citizens, working collectively on these problems together, to solve them.

Second, being a good global citizen takes investment, whether it is with your educational or career choices, financial contributions, or how you spend your spare time. It’s not simply enough to be aware.  You have to put some skin in the game.  I was a Navy officer, once, sitting in a class of Navy officers being taught by Army officers on how to survive in Iraq and a [retired] Army Ranger summed up this point very well; he said, “When the shooting starts, do something. So, in other words, invest yourself, do something,” he said.

Third, being a good global citizen requires a constructive agenda. There is no doubt that it is important to speak out and call attention to issues that you feel are wrong, or violate humanity’s core principles, or need correction. But it’s not enough simply to describe the problem. We have to work together to come up with common solutions.

And that brings me to the fourth point, good global citizens mean you come up with and work on solutions.  And this may be a really tough thing to do — it may be tough to formulate, it may be tough to implement — but the most critical step in that process is proposing something. It’s having a positive agenda. It’s okay if it’s not completely thought through or fulsome because the best ideas are the ones that come first and they are the key to kick off the collaborative, iterative process that will ultimately help solve some of our biggest challenges in the world.

And last, being a good global citizen means you search out for that part of being a citizen that most interests you — the one that you find compelling and interesting. There are many ways to contribute and to help make the world a better place — all types of careers, charitable works, and service activities. So find something that works for you and grabs your attention. It will ultimately keep you involved.

Whether it’s the environment, serving our country like many of your parents, global health, international business, teaching abroad, hosting an exchange student, being an exchange student yourself, working on international political affairs, so forth; if it interests you, that, more than anything else, will keep you coming back to the issue. And this service takes many different forms.  It impacts the world in many different ways.  And we need this diversity of service, all working together, to solve the world’s problems today.

Let me conclude by saying you are already way ahead of the game. You are standing here on really one of the frontlines of freedom around the world, you are halfway around the world from your home country, and that is why I am speaking to you this way, that is why as the representative of the Unites States of America here, I can say this with confidence, “We are counting on you.”

When I was your age — this was the point I was getting to, I just skipped ahead, I was laughing — I thought that going three miles to the mall in a different suburb of Cincinnati was exploring the world and constituted service, I think maybe to the GAP or something, anyway, so it’s been a long road for me, and you are already well ahead of the game: your background, your experience, your education reflected in the great speeches I heard earlier today. Your families have put you on this path to do great things in the world.

And to that end my final message is “Go.”  Go with confidence, go with the knowledge of your strong foundation. Be a leader, solve some of the world’s toughest challenges, leave the world a better place for you, your parents, your children — when you have them. Congratulations again and같이갑시다. Thank you.