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Citadel News Service
5 May 2007

From the mouths of cadets, now grads

It is Citadel tradition that the senior class president and the last cadet to cross the stage to get his or her diploma speaks to the graduating class.  Here's is what both had to say during the Class of 2007 commencement.

Joe Thomas Zoretic, the last cadet to cross the stage.

Fellow members of the Class of 2007,

Today marks the end of four arduous years here at The Citadel. As yesterday's parade symbolized, we are now part of the long gray line of Citadel graduates. While some of you are going to do your best to forget this place, you will forever be a Citadel grad.

What do you think of when you hear someone say Citadel graduate? Do you think of the walls full of generals' and admirals' photographs in the lobby of Jenkins Hall? Do you think of the long list of the names of graduates who have given their lives for their country? What about the graduates who have found success in business or politics? To me, part of what I thin of are those grads that I saw at home football games, who spared no expense to tell me to get in step, to get my chin in, and to remind me that they had it so much harder when they were here.

While I won't criticize the classes that went before us, as they have earned the right to do as they please, what I will do is challenge you to be a different kind of alumni than those who came before us. I know that all of you are ready to get out of here, to follow your own paths in life, and to make up for the four years of your lives you spent here. But you will be a Citadel graduate whether you like it or not, and you will forever be linked to this school and judged by it.

In what ever you do; whether in the military or civilian worlds, work hard, be successful, and find happiness for yourselves and your families. But stay involved with this school. This school needs money, and it will remind you of this on a continual basis. But what the school really needs is alumni who will stay involved and not just give money, but devote time and energy to ensure the Corps of Cadets truly runs this school and has an administration that supports and mentors it.

Because you have lasted these four years, you now share the ownership of this school. You have done all that is required of you: you've sacrificed your time, your money, and your independence. While some may argue that the state owns it, they are wrong, the alumni own it, because it is the alumni who will forever be judged by what The Citadel is or is not. The future of this school is now your burden, because if the honor and prestige of this school is allowed to be tarnished, it will forever reflect on you, because you will always be a Citadel graduate, and you can't escape it.

You may choose not to wear your ring, hang your diploma in your office, or tell people where you went to college. But, like it or not, you are a product of this institution. Go forth in life, armed with what you have learned here, and be successful and happy.

But stay involved, stay informed, and stay empowered to safeguard this institution, because you are forever a part of it.

Good Luck and God Bless, Thank you. 

John E. Auer, senior class president

Good morning. This speech is dedicated to Tim Ishii, a 1979 Citadel Graduate who I am privileged to call my mentor and friend.

To The Class of 2007:

It is amazing how fast time flies at this institution. It seems like it was only yesterday when we were all sitting in the bleachers to your left listening to President Grinalds addressing us for the first time as a class… Now we sit together for one last time, definitely thankful that we’ve made it this far.

In speaking of how far we’ve come, I want to recognize those who have helped us along the way and then talk briefly about the distance we have to cover after this day is over.

First, through the power of God, I know that like each and every one of you graduating here today, I am blessed. We are all blessed to have the opportunity to attend such a fine institution, but I believe that more importantly we are blessed to have the love, support and patience over the past four years of the ones who have raised us: our parents, and mother or father figures in our lives. At this time I would ask that all the parents of the members of the Class of 2007 please stand. Classmates, faculty and staff please join me in applauding those whose love, patience and support has made it possible for us to be here today.

Next I will tell a brief story that I hope will leave you with some inspiration for the future.

Like many of you, after High School graduation, I was invited to a local Citadel Alumni Association send off dinner which for me was in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time I was introduced to a gentleman in a wheelchair, Tim Ishii, November Company, Class of 1979.

When he graduated, Tim was an army contract and just like many of you will do, he went immediately to training. He was undergoing Rapid Deployment Force training when assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Cambell, Kentucky. On the last day of a two-week special training exercise in March 1980, Tim fell and broke his neck at the C4 and C5 vertebrae which rendered him a quadriplegic.

The recovery process for this accident was horrifying. For the next two or three weeks after the accident, Tim had several surgeries of more than six hours each and he rarely spoke. I now want to quote from Tim’s father’s book “Memoirs of a Samurai", from a part that made my Dad cry upon reading it. Tim’s father wrote, “I remember very clearly each time Tim woke up, seeing that I was sitting right by his bed. He said to me slowly, but in a clear voice, ‘Dad……so…much…for……to ..The Citadel… that training is now helping me” By the grace of God, and through the fortitude and discipline that Time had obtained in the duration of his time at The Citadel, Tim was able to overcome this painful time of his life.

Tim didn’t stop with his recovery, but decided to attend Law School. Let me remind you that as a quadriplegic, Tim had to have assistance to do everything, eat, drink, bathe, turn pages in a book – everything that we take for granted on a daily basis.

Tim did not let this handicap keep him from succeeding in life but graduated from Law School and today is a successful and well known member of the Nashville Bar.

In closing, Classmates, you all have something in common with Tim Ishii. You all are to be graduates of the same institution, you all have had the same training, have built upon your character and through your own strong fortitude should be able to attain any goal, complete any job or overcome any obstacle. In the future if you ever think you’re having a rough day, or that you thought that your work was just getting to be too much, I ask you to just think of Tim Ishii. He was faced with an ultimate challenge, and through his strengths that he obtained here at El Cid just like every one of us, continues to succeed and push on with his life. I hope that I will have the same fortitude and drive that Tim Ishii has and wish for each of you to do the same.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you all and I wish you all the best.

God Bless the Class of 2007!

Achieving excellence in the education and development of principled leaders
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