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Commencement

“To Serve Better Thy Country and Thy Kind”

Eight graduates commissioned into the armed services at ROTC ceremony

5.25.22

The ROTC graduates salute the flag during the national anthem

Photograph by Jim Harrison


The ROTC graduates salute the flag during the national anthem

Photograph by Jim Harrison

A joyous occasion was also a somber one today, as eight ROTC graduates were commissioned into the United States armed forces. The nation’s highest-ranking military officer and principal military adviser to the President, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, delivered the oath of office to the new officers and gave a sobering keynote address about the current risk of another great power war. (As Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Milley also spoke at the 2019 ceremony.)

 
Mark A. Milley
Photograph by Jim Harrison

“You Will Never, Ever, Turn Your Back on the U.S. Constitution”

Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, China’s rising military power, continued violence in the Middle East, and North Korea (which is “always a challenge”), all pose a very real threat “to the world order and peace established after World War II,” Milley said. He told the new officers that they will be faced with warfare “fundamentally different than what we’ve seen before.” Where decisive battles were previously fought in rural and unoccupied zones, Milley said that “now, in Ukraine and elsewhere, decisive battles are occurring in dense urban areas.” Learning to navigate and prevent this style of warfare will be a “tremendous challenge” for the next generation of officers and will necessitate new tools: domains of war will include “space and cyber, in addition to land, sea, and air.”

“It’s our job, your job, my job, the job of all of us in uniform, to maintain a very high level of readiness—to maintain the strength of our military in order to prevent a great power war,” he said. Although it’s been eight decades since WWII, Milley urged listeners not to forget the devastation that great wars bring. “Think about the summer of 1944,” he said, the summer when Milley’s own father was fighting on the beach in Iwo Jima. “We lost 58,000 Americans in eight weeks, the summer of 1944. That’s great power war.”

Taking a step back from current events to the ceremony at hand, Milley asked, “But what is it all about, this oath?...It’s about a document...We as a country are an experiment, and this experiment is codified in a document, the Constitution.” The Constitution embodies the country’s founding ideal that “under these colors—red, white, and blue—every single one of us, by the grace of Almighty God, we are all free and equal.”

“Under no circumstances, no matter what it costs you—whether it costs you an arm, your eyesight, your life, your limbs, your reputation, it doesn’t matter. You will never, ever turn your back on the U.S. Constitution,” he told the new officers. “It is our solemn duty, even at the risk of our own death, to pass that Constitution off to the next generation, so that they too can live in liberty and freedom.”

 


Lawrence S. Bacow
Photograph by Jim Harrison

“An Enduring Connection”

President Lawrence S. Bacow also addressed the ROTC graduates. He referenced Harvard’s deep military roots, evident even in the buildings surrounding the ceremony: Loeb House, which was turned over to the Navy for its V-12 school training program during WWII; Memorial Church, built to honor those who died in World War I; and Massachusetts Hall, now the site of Bacow’s office, which once housed George Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War. These buildings, he said, are just the physical evidence of “an enduring connection between two of our country’s greatest institutions: the United States military and Harvard University.”

After Commencement rites tomorrow, the new officers will “depart to serve better thy country and thy kind,” Bacow said, quoting former University president Charles William Eliot. All Harvard graduates “bear a special responsibility to use the gifts that we’ve been given to try to make the world a better place,” he continued, but that responsibility is particularly profound for ROTC graduates. Bacow added, “Your presence in the several branches of the military will not only contribute to the support and defense of the Constitution—something, I might add, which has never been more important—but also to underscore the unique contributions that students educated at Harvard can—and should—make to the armed forces.”


Second Lieutenant Christopher Chu De León receives his first salute from his mother, Veronica de Leon. 
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Loved ones pin Second Lieutenant Christina Lowell's rank onto her shoulders.
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Bacow concluded his remarks with well wishes for the officers: “Today, we honor your choice; we honor your commitment; we honor your service. Thank you—and Godspeed.”

Members of the graduating ROTC cohort hail from the College and Harvard Kennedy School, and will enter the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force.

  • Second Lieutenant Todd Qiu concentrated in history with a secondary field in economics and will commission as a military intelligence officer in the Army, serving in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • Second Lieutenant Bryce Kim is set to graduate with a A.B. in history and will commission into the Army under the educational delay program and will attend University of Chicago Law School to serve as a JAG officer.
  • Second Lieutenant Christopher Chu De León is set to receive a graduate degree in public policy. He will join the Texas Army National Guard as an infantry officer in the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Houston, Texas.
  • Second Lieutenant Danielle Levin will graduate with a dual degree from HKS and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She will commission into the New York Army National Guard as a cyber officer, serving in Cyber Protection Team 173 in Camp Smith, New York.
  • Ensign David Chung will graduate with a degree in economics and commission as a surface warfare officer in the Navy. He will serve aboard the USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26), homeported in San Diego.
  • Second Lieutenant Christina Lowell concentrated in applied mathematics and will commission with a pilot slot for the Air Force, reporting to the 14th Flying Training Wing in Columbus, Mississippi.
  • Second Lieutenant Noah Jones concentrated in mechanical engineering with a secondary field in government, and will commission into the Space Force. He will study developmental engineering at Boston University under the Air Force Institute of Technology Civilian Institutions Program.  
  • Second Lieutenant Michael Pumiglia will graduate with a degree in government and a secondary field in neuroscience and will commission as a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve with his first duty station in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

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Graduates-to-be read the student newspaper, absent a University Gazette

Absent a printed Harvard Gazette, the Commencement crowd devoured The Crimson.
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Commencement Confetti

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Law students at the Commencement exercises

Law graduates wield their gavels

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Conferring and Confirming

Urbanist William Julius Wilson and the ever-activist Gloria Steinem

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Honoris Causa

Graduates-to-be read the student newspaper, absent a University Gazette

Absent a printed Harvard Gazette, the Commencement crowd devoured The Crimson.
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Commencement Confetti