While the motto for the USMA Class of 2017 is “So Others May Dream,” its members themselves having been dreaming of today, their graduation day, for 1,426 and a butt days. From their facing of the Cadet in the Red Sash until the tossing of their white caps, more than two million minutes have passed for them during their 47-month West Point experience. Nearly 1,200 applicants were admitted for the Class of 2017, 936 of whom crossed the dais to receive their diplomas at graduation and join the Long Gray Line, representing 78 percent of the cadets who entered West Point almost four years ago on R-Day 2013.
Addressing the graduates, LTG Robert L. Caslen ’75, the 59th Superintendent, reminisced that he arrived at West Point just weeks after the Class of 2017’s R-Day. “We shared a lot of good times and good memories, including a win over Navy,” said Caslen to thunderous applause. “You are the first class in 15 years to get bragging rights, and let me encourage you not be bashful.” He called the Class of 2017 “an incredible class” that is ready to accept the torch of leadership. “Like all classes before you, you are ready to face the challenges that await you; you will respond to the call of duty.”
United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, this year’s graduation speaker, also addressed the challenges awaiting the Class of 2017, specifically referring to the tragedy that happened earlier in the week in Manchester, England. “Manchester’s tragic loss underscores the purpose for your years of study and training at this elite school—for today you join the ranks of those whose mission is to guard freedom and protect the innocent from such terror,” Mattis said. “The innocent being the ‘others’ mentioned in your class motto.”
Yet, later in his address, Mattis transitioned to another motto known to all who wear the uniform (which he framed within the West Point motto known well to all members of the Long Gray Line): “Hold the line.” Mattis told the members of the Class of 2017: “You hold the line faithful to duty confronting our nation’s foes with implacable will, knowing that if there’s a hill to climb waiting will not make it any smaller. You hold the line true to honor living by a moral code regardless of who is watching, knowing that honor is what we give ourselves for a life of meaning. You hold the line loyal to country and defending the Constitution and our fundamental freedoms, knowing from your challenges here on the Hudson that loyalty only counts where there are a hundred reasons not to be.”
This year’s graduation class includes 151 women (63 of whom branched combat arms), 102 Hispanics, 72 African-Americans, 60 Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 6 Native Americans. The class also includes 21 combat veterans, 10 international graduates, and 65 members who are sons and daughters of West Point graduates (six of which have parents who are both graduates).
After the traditional hat toss (watch the hat toss here), graduates changed uniforms “from cadet grays to Army blues” and headed to various bar-pinning ceremonies across post. Their second lieutenant’s bars are engraved with the numerals “67-17” to commemorate the bond these graduates have with the Class of 1967. That class, which just celebrated its 50th class reunion, has gripped hands with the Class of 2017 as its 50-Year Affiliation Class since their March Back from Beast Barracks in 2013.
The West Point tradition of bonding and mentorship between the 50-year Affiliation Classes and cadets culminates today as members of the Class of 1967 present a set of Second Lieutenant bars engraved with “67-17” to each graduate. The four representatives of the Class of 1967 presenting the bars are:
Colonel Thomas J. Parr, U.S. Army (Retired), Doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon and 50-Year Affiliation Chairman.
Lieutenant Colonel Willis F. Lowrey, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired), Class Scribe and Historian.
The Honorable Thomas B. Dyer, Former Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and WPAOG Distinguished Graduate Award Recipient.
The Honorable Thomas E. White, Jr., Former Secretary of the Army, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired) and WPAOG Distinguished Graduate Award Recipient.