Graduation speech given by BG, VSM, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, Frank Vanecek:
Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for coming this morning and welcome to Norwich University and the 23rd graduation ceremony for Future Leader Camp. This is our 11th year training young people from around the world and across the nation and in that time approximately 2200 young leaders have attended FLC. At Norwich six of our last nine Regimental Commanders are products of FLC having either attended or worked for the program. Many others have attained significant leadership positions and today there are FLC graduates attending every Federal Academy and Senior Military College. The young people standing behind me represent many communities and high schools across 36 states
I want to thank our families for sending us the fine young people standing behind me. They are all future leaders and you should be proud of their accomplishments. Some of them had no idea of the physical challenges they would face upon arrival and some suffered the ill-effects of homesickness…something we have all had to endure in life. Most mornings found your son’s and daughter’s rising at 5:30 am to participate in physical fitness training. Since most of them do this as a normal part of their everyday lives… it was interesting to say the least. Each day during the first week they participated in some form of training to prepare them for the second week. They rappelled down a 50’ tower, climbed a 40’ wall, ran an obstacle course, learned to tie knots and build a one-rope bridge, got tossed in the pool and were taught how to float, they learned how to read a topographic map and use a compass, played Paintball, learned about First Aid and Crisis Preparedness, and even completed an Orienteering course. Thank God for GPS! In the evening they learned about Intelligent Leadership Design and watched a film about Sir Ernest Shackleton participating in discussions as we examined this exceptional story of survival from a leadership perspective. We discussed Effective Communications and learned how to make a wonderful Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich…and we did all this during the first 5-days. On Saturday and Sunday they rappelled the 80’ cliffs at Deer Leap Rock in Killington, Vermont; climbed the many walls at Green Mountain Rock Climbing Club in Rutland and hiked 6 and a half miles over the top of Mt. Ascutney. As the second week began, they hiked to the woods, learned to build survival shelters, received classes in field hygiene, sanitation and cooking…and yes…for two nights they cooked their own meals…without the use of a microwave. The next day found them rotating through 8 different stations where they about learned self-defense; Traps, Snares and Tracks, and how to identify edible plants and animals. They received instruction on how to find water and build a fire, and honed their skills on the air rifle and archery range. On Wednesday… they travelled between 8 different points on the map and at each point they were tested individually on some aspect of their learning by our Instructors. Thursday found them up early before chow participating in the Army Physical Fitness Test to learn how many pushups and sit-ups they could do in 2-minutes and how fast they could run 2-miles. And I want to mention that over half of them passed! A Drill Competition after breakfast to demonstrate if they had finally learned their left from their right and after lunch the Olympic Challenge Course an afternoon of field games and competition. But the day wasn’t finished as that evening was dedicated to Skit Night. Yes…quite a few characters we have in this group…some destined to be comedians we are sure. It was a great time for all! Yesterday we spent the day at Lake Elmore a beautiful State Park about an hour’s drive from campus where we cooked out, played volleyball, swam, and relaxed. For each of these young people this was a challenging experience and our purpose was to teach them basic leadership and what it means to be part of a team. They fought amongst themselves, argued at times, complained when they got tired, but more often than not they learned to work together as one because ultimately, as leaders, we must learn to play the hand we are dealt.
Integrity, honesty, self-discipline, initiative, creativity, flexibility, humility, the ability to seek responsibility and take responsibility ones actions, knowing yourself, understanding and being able to admit your strengths and weaknesses, placing the needs of the team before your own…these are all things they should have learned these past two-weeks. Beyond the fun and challenge they learned that life isn’t perfect and as leaders we must learn to work with all people…no matter what their background, race, religion, gender or character. Outside of boot camp and initial military training, which are designed to evoke stress…true leaders in business and the military are always positive, they do not have to yell and scream or demean their people…and those who do are simply poor leaders. True leaders respect their people and in turn earn respect…it is the only way. Those who lead by fear and intimidation are never respected and are destined to fail. You should all be proud of your accomplishments these past two-weeks…I know we are. It was tough and some of you had a difficult time physically, mentally and emotionally. For some it was the first time away from home, for others it wasn’t quite what you expected. Remember what you learned from day one…we all tend to draw lines in the sand…a line that can hold us back for fear of crossing. The proverbial… I can’t go any further, I can’t go any faster, I can’t do anymore line. Remember…“Whether you think you can or think you can’t you will always be right.” In the end you all made it across the line! Congratulations!