One last lesson

More than any other year, this year’s commencement speakers have grabbed headlines across the country. President Barack Obama will speak at the Naval Academy, the University of Notre Dame and Arizona State University. These planned appearances are not without their share of controversy; pro-lifers at Notre Dame are angry about Obama’s vehement pro-choice stances and the fact that Arizona State almost did not give Obama an honorary degree has raised eyebrows as well.

Because of the national fervor over graduation speakers, Villanova’s announcement that retired four-star U.S. Navy Admiral William J. “Fox” Fallon will speak at our commencement May 17 will face extra scrutiny. Fallon, a 1967 Villanova graduate, would be a worthy speaker at any commencement but is especially well suited to speak at Villanova.

Although many seniors were no doubt hoping for a flashy name, like say, Tina Fey or M. Night Shyamalan to headline commencement, they should be no less impressed with Fallon. With a Villanova background, he will speak to students who had the same experiences that he had and who sit in the same seats where he sat many years earlier.

Fallon was commander of the United States Central Command – meaning he was commander of all military activity in the Middle Eastern theater. Of the past 10 commanders of CENTCOM, three have been Villanova alumni: Fallon, retired Four-star Marine Corps General George Crist and Four-star Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni. These men and their accomplishments are a source of pride for Villanova and testifies to the strength of the ROTC and NROTC programs; Crist, Fallon and Zinni were all members of NROTC during their times at Villanova.

Fallon will also receive an honorary degree from Villanova. Already a member of the Villanova community, he will be able to connect his experiences with those of this year’s graduates. His story, of traveling the world, working in the highest ranks of the military and fighting in Vietnam, Bosnia and Iraq all started right here at Villanova. He had the same start that all of our graduates will have come May 17. Look how far he’s gone, all with an Augustinian education. That message should connect with seniors as they leave their common Villanova experience to pursue different paths.

Although students might not recognize Fallon’s name on first try, he deserves to be honored. He is evidence of what hard work, combined with a strong education, can accomplish. Hopefully he will use his shared Villanova experiences to connect with seniors and inspire them to do great things as they leave the confines of campus.

Commencement is Villanova’s final sendoff to students and an opportunity to seal four years’ worth of valuable lessons. Picking such an accomplished Villanova graduate to speak to seniors will impart the value and possibilities of a Villanova education and will provide one last opportunity for us to celebrate our shared Villanova experience together.