May 20, 2017
General Lori Robinson UNH Commencement Speech Transcript
Lori Robinson, the first woman to lead a major combatant command in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces, addressed the class of 2017 at UNH Commencement on May 20, 2017. Read the transcript of the full speech here.
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Please give a warm welcome to General Lori J. Robinson.
General Lori J. Robinson: (00:08)
Good morning. And I can’t even begin to tell you, I’m going to get really emotional here. Yeah. I am so proud to be a Wildcat. I can’t even tell you. Just to stand here. I’ve been thinking about my graduation day. I don’t think it was as pretty as this, but remembering all of that and listening to you all. I am so proud to be here. I’m proud to be a Wildcat, but more importantly, I’m proud of each and every one of you. What you’ve accomplished is nothing less than phenomenal, so congratulations.
General Lori J. Robinson: (01:00)
So good morning, President Huddleston, thank you so much for the privilege to speak today. You have no idea how much I’ve thought about today and what this day would turn out like. It’s better than I ever expected. Jonathan, thank you for that warm introduction. You’ve captured a lot of amazing things in a very short time, and I appreciate that. I told him, please don’t talk long. All that means is that I’m really old, so stop that. UNH alumni, Wildcat friends and family, it is an unbelievable honor to be here with you.
General Lori J. Robinson: (01:36)
Returning to campus brings back some amazing memories of my time here. I enjoyed seeing the MUB, listening to the bells ring at T Hall. I recalled my life in my old dorm, give it up for Divine Hall. I remembered spending hours on end in classrooms. And I laughed actually about my Friday nights I’ve spent, yes, partying with my friends, and my roommates who are all here today, and I’m so excited about that. And I don’t know if this still exists, but I will tell you, those nights always seem to end with us eating some amazing, great greasy food from the truck outside Devine Hall. It always tasted good at midnight. It really is wonderful to be here. Sir, the University of New Hampshire is looking great. It is clear that you have made this fine university better over time here.
General Lori J. Robinson: (02:43)
To the graduating class of 2017, congratulations again on a job well done. You should be incredibly proud of your successes and your accomplishments. And I know that everybody on this stage and on the wings here and all of your friends and your family are here today and are proud of you. I know I’m going to say this, but it has been 36 years since I graduated from the University of New Hampshire. I’m really not that old, it just sounds like it. But I know just like you, I would not succeeded without the help and support of my parents and my family. My father is also a UNH grad and he’s here today. And dad, I love you, and thank you for your support. And if I talk about my dad, I have to talk about his sister, my aunt Diana and uncle Dick, and I think they’re here today too, so yay.
General Lori J. Robinson: (03:50)
My dad and I are not the only multi-generational family here at commencement. I’d like to welcome one particularly special family in attendance. Grandma Jean Doe is 91 years old, and from the class of 1947. Her son William Doe Jr from the graduating class of 1980 is also here. His niece, Megan graduated from UNH a couple of years ago, and Matt is graduating today. How awesome is that? The Doe family no doubt supported each other along the way, and I’m sure that’s the same for all the graduates here today. Whether you’re 22 years old or you came back to college as a more mature adult, you are here at commencement today in large part because of the support you received from your family and from your friends. The standing ovation that you gave to them a moment ago is certainly well deserved.
General Lori J. Robinson: (04:57)
Grads, during your journey here at UNH, you’ve broadened your minds, increased your understanding, and gained incredible skills. You are a different person than when you were when you first set foot on campus. And when you leave this campus today, you’ll start a new journey. These are exciting times for you. Regardless of the career path you have in mind, this morning I’d like to plant one small seed, one thing to think about as you depart. I ask you to consider how you can, how we all can use the skills and knowledge gained here at the University of New Hampshire to serve something bigger than ourselves. Something that you’ve been doing and something you can continue to do.
General Lori J. Robinson: (05:42)
If anybody had told me on my graduation day in the spring of 1981, Lori, you’ll be back someday to give the commencement address, I know I would have laughed at them. Back then I had no idea where life would take me. In 1981. I had no intention of having a lifelong career in the air force, but along the way, something unplanned happened. I fell in with in love with the air force, I found my husband in the air force, with the institution, with the military family and community, while serving and above all, with being a part of something bigger than myself. My air force journey started with my commissioning ceremony. My dad commissioned me on that day all those years ago. Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in such a ceremony and commissioning a group of your classmates and peers, 22 of New Hampshire’s air force and ROTC programs who are just the beginning on their military journey. They stood and they raised the right hand and they took the oath of office. They made a public commitment to support and defend the constitution of the United States.
General Lori J. Robinson: (07:02)
I am incredibly proud of these new officers, but I didn’t come here to recruit you into the military, far from it. Yes, our all volunteer military needs people, like your fellow grads willing to raise the right hand and recite the oath. But our nation needs what all of you graduates, I repeat, what all of you graduates have to offer. Some of these newly commissioned officers may decide to devote their careers to service in the military, but some may serve just a few years and then move on to other pursuits. In or out of uniform, they can still serve. We all can serve. No matter what your career ambitions may be, no matter what line of work you have in mind, this morning, I’d suggest to all of you that as citizens of this great country, we are all called to serve. To serve our communities, our nation, and our world.
General Lori J. Robinson: (07:57)
Service can take many forms. It can begin at local levels in our communities. For the past four or so many years, you’ve all been a part of the dynamic community here on campus and in this great college town. You’ve learned to engage with others in your classes, your dorms, and activities, to listen to differing viewpoints, to reach out and welcome new people, to support your fellow Wildcats in need. You’ve gained empathy. Whether you realized it or not, here at UNH, you have learned to build a community. Now consider what community may look like as you depart from UNH, as you move on to the next adventure in your life. Many of you are here from small towns across New Hampshire and other parts of New England, towns like Jackson where my father lives today, population 816. In a town like that, people know each other. They know when new folks move in. They know the kids in the town. They see each other at church, at a grocery store, maybe even at the bar. They are a tight-knit community. People look out for each other and that benefits everyone.
General Lori J. Robinson: (09:07)
The military can also provide a tight-knit community, and as a child living on bases overseas, I learned from my parents and adults around us how quickly to build a community. When you move your family to overseas assignments in Japan or Germany, or even to locations here in the United States, far from family, you quickly come together and you build bonds of support. I’m grateful for my air force family, the air force community. My hope for you today is that you also find community when you leave here. To live in strong, vibrant communities, we must build them together.
General Lori J. Robinson: (09:43)
I echo what President Huddleston said a moment ago, our communities need the incredible skills that you have to offer. Social media provides a great way to connect with each other and share highlights of our lives. I’m looking forward to seeing all those #UNH17 hashtags later. Yeah. But building community also requires us to engage with each other in person. Engagement means having conversation with a person in line next to you at Starbucks, or even the DMV. Building community begins with asking what are the needs of the people around me? How can I serve my neighbor? Serving your neighbor can begin with inviting the lady next door for supper, or having a beer with the guy across the street. You may discover how much you have in common and begin to form the bonds that strong communities require. You’ve learned to engage in such conversations at UNH. You now have a chance to use those skills in the larger world.
General Lori J. Robinson: (10:41)
Here in New Hampshire, you can also strengthen community and serve this great state by starting your career with one of those growing companies here. Some incredible companies are hiring and in need of the skills that you bring. But again, service can come in many forms. The uniform I’m wearing is a very visible symbol of service to the nation, but service doesn’t require a uniform. Service can also mean something as easy as putting on the red nose, right? Red nose day here in the United States is coming up on Thursday, so put on your red nose and help kids become safe, healthy, and educated.
General Lori J. Robinson: (11:19)
You can serve through nationwide programs which help children at local levels. Programs like the First Tee, which coaches and mentors children through the game of golf, where big brothers and sisters would match as mentors with kids who need more adult role models. Such one-on-one relationships can strengthen our children and our communities. You can serve the nation through initiatives, such as The Core Network, which strengthens this country through locally based conservation environmental work, or AmeriCorps, which meets a whole range of critical needs and communities throughout the United States. You can take service abroad through the Peace Corps or through United Planet, which helps volunteers build a global community.
General Lori J. Robinson: (12:01)
Wildcat class of 2017, be proud of what you’ve achieved. You’ve worked hard to reach this point today. As our UNH President said earlier, you are a class who listened to better angels in your time here. You’ve been serving here at UNH, and no doubt you’ll continue. So on this beautiful campus, you have gained valuable skills in building a community. Wherever you are headed next, you now have the opportunity to take those skills and use them to your next community, our nation, and our world. I’m proud to be a Wildcat class of ’81. Congratulations.