The 985 members of the Class of 2019 entered the Academy 47 months ago on June 29, 2015—or, as LTG Darryl Williams ’83, the 60th Superintendent of West Point, said to them on their graduation day, they entered “12 Marvel and three Star Wars movies ago, when the iPhone was still running on IOS-8 and Tom Brady only had four Super Bowl rings.”
During that time, they learned a number of lessons about leadership. But before they raised their right hands and took the oath to support and defend the Constitution as officers in the U.S. Army, Williams offered a few more tips to the members of the Class of 2019: 1) live and lead honorably (“Remember our values; learn and lean on them daily; draw strength from them; and live them every day”), 2) mission first, but people always (“Take care of your soldiers and earn their trust”), 3) depend on your NCOs (“Officers may run the Army, but NCOs make the Army run”), and 4) be ready (“Make sure your soldiers are prepared and trained to answer the call when it comes”).
Vice President Mike Pence, the graduation speaker for the Class of 2019, also provided lessons on leadership during his commencement address. He said, “Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that there are three important qualities of leadership: humility, orientation to authority, and personal discipline.” Regarding humility, Pence told the members of the graduation class that they need to consider others as more important than themselves. For orientation to authority, he said that it is vital “to respect the chain of command, trust superiors, and trust orders.” Finally, in terms of personal discipline (“the foundation of all accomplishments”), he told the cadets, “To lead others, you must first lead yourself.” After listing all the challenges to freedom facing the United States, from radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq to uncertainties in the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific and to Europe and this hemisphere, Pence told the soon-to-be second lieutenants, “Wherever you are called, take what you have learned here and put it into practice.”
The Class of 2019, the United States Military Academy’s 221st graduating class, is a historic one. Among its members is the 5,000th woman to graduate from West Point, as well as its 1,000th Jewish graduate. The class has the highest number of African-American women graduates and the highest number of Hispanic women graduates. Finally, its valedictorian, CDT David Bindon ’19, joins GEN Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903, as one of only 13 cadets since 1872 to serve as First Captain their firstie year and graduate as the top student in the class.
After Bindon gave the order “Class Dismissed!” and grads performed the euphoric hat toss, the new second lieutenants 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 “69-19” to commemorate the bond these graduates have with the Class of 1969, their 50-Year Affiliation Class. That class, which just celebrated its 50th Class Reunion, has gripped hands with the Class of 2019 since their March Back from Beast Barracks in 2015. Those graduating today represent approximately 76 percent of the 1,214 cadets who entered West Point almost four years ago.