Lieutenant General Flora Darpino, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, spoke to 660 graduates May 18 at Gettysburg College’s 179th Commencement Exercises, reinforcing that success takes courage and the acceptance that you might fail.
“There are two types of failure. There is the failure from trying and the failure from not trying. Much of our focus is on the failure from trying. This, I would submit, is not the failure that should give you angst. When you face failure after having tried, you gain from your efforts because if you learn from those missteps you will continue to grow. Failing is a reflection of your perseverance,” Darpino said.
Darpino cited examples of times in her own life and career when she could have let the fear of failure stop her from trying something new. When speaking about her decision to join her husband in the U.S. Army, Darpino admitted that she was “scared to death,” and has fallen several times since, but has always moved forward with resolve, taking on new challenges as they come along.
“I look back and there were many times that I could have declined a challenge and not risk the disappointment. I could have opted out. But I expect more from myself. Have expectations. Be willing to risk the disappointment. Risk failing. For only then can you truly succeed,” she said.
President Janet Morgan Riggs, a 1977 graduate of the College, echoed Darpino’s sentiments and encouraged students to aim high in her charge and parting words to the Class of 2014.
“As you head off to new places—to graduate programs around the nation and the world, to serve our country through the military and other national service positions, to share your knowledge through teaching here in the states and abroad, and to jobs ranging from sales to finance to research to the nonprofit sector—I challenge you to do great work, to maintain your high aspirations, to act with integrity, and to treat others with dignity and respect,” Riggs said.
Student speaker Brandon Tower, a member of the Class of 2014 and dual major in political science and international affairs with a minor in Italian studies, looked ahead with great anticipation at the multitude of directions in which he and his classmates are headed.
“[This] is our moment–the moment when walk across this stage and part ways in the same chaotic manner by which we came to this place. 660 different ‘bullets,’ flying in 660 different directions; some probably with a little more velocity than others; some probably with a more clearly defined target; but all of us shooting off with the same tattoo, the same permanent imprint and Gettysburg frame that leaves our options in life endless, with no real exaggeration,” he said. “Class of 2014, a town and a place and a college that have so enormously shaped our nation too have shaped us and left us forever changed in the best way possible and forever prepared to confront whatever our lives and the world throws in our direction.”
In addition to Darpino receiving a Doctor of Laws, honorary degrees were presented to two individuals who are accomplished in their fields. The individuals and their degrees include record producer and music industry executive Clive Davis, Doctor of Fine Arts, and Bishop Callon Holloway ’76, Doctor of Divinity.
The Lavern H. Brenneman Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service to Gettysburg College was presented to William T. ’63, P’86 and Jean Cleveland ’64, P’86 Kirchhoff.
Over 600 people viewed the ceremony online, including Ben Litwin '15 who is studying abroad in Australia and Pia Brock watching from Copenhagen, Denmark. Check out the live stream archive.