Cadet Reed Wilson's Baccalaureate Speech
Members of the Class of 1999, it is very fitting that we converge here on Summerall Chapel to begin our graduation celebration. This is where we began our cadet careers with the gathering in August of 1995. We have spent many hours within these walls over the past four years, spending time with our Creator. We converged here in October of this year to place the only tangible symbol of this institution upon our right hands. Now, we meet here again to begin our graduation celebration. This event can be viewed in two ways: as the beginning of the end, or the beginning of the beginning. Obviously, this is the beginning of the end of our cadet careers. In just two days we will walk across the stage and become graduates of this institution. It is the beginning of the beginning in that once we walk across that stage, we have begun a new chapter in our lives.
What does it mean to be a member of the Class of 1999? Among our ranks we can boast of a Fullbright Scholar, future attorneys, doctors, and ministers. We have the leaders of tomorrow's business world and of our nation's armed forces. We have engineers, philosophers, and dreamers. Truly, every livelihood is represented within our class. Whatever label we may place upon it, we must never forget that we are the last class of the 20th Century. That makes us the leaders of the 21st Century, and with that comes an outstanding burden of responsibility.
Our nation has witnessed a vast degradation of morals and values over the past 50 years. Americans no longer feel safe and trusting, whether they are walking the streets at night or closing a business deal in the morning. The power of a man's word or his handshake does not mean what it meant to our parents and grandparents. It has been said that The Citadel is on the endangered species list, and this may be true, for we have been given the luxury of attending an institution that holds morals and values in the highest esteem.
As we move away from these sacred grounds at this sacred Chapel, we must make a conscious decision: are we going to continue to watch as morals and values are thrown to the wayside, or are we going to stand up for what we believe? That is what we have been trained to do for the past four years of our lives, and now, more than ever, our nation needs products of The Citadel. It will not be easy, but truly there is no better class to face this challenge than the Class of 1999. We have endured hardships for four years and difficulty is no stranger to us. We need only to remember that it takes only one man, one word, and one example to make a difference and to take a stand for what he believes. With the rings on our fingers, the degrees in our hands, and the knowledge in our heads we can make a difference in our community, in our state, and in our nation. We owe this ability to The Citadel, our alma mater.
May we never forget those who have gone before us, whose names are on the walls of this chapel who made the supreme sacrifice so that we may enjoy the luxury of a Citadel education. May we never forget to give the honor, glory, and praise to our Creator who gave the supreme sacrifice that we may enjoy the luxury of Eternal Life. May God bless The Citadel, and may God bless the last class of the 20th Century; God bless The Citadel Class of 1999.