By Jeanette Steele, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
Forty U.S. military officers graduated from the U.S. Naval War College on Nov. 13, earning Master of Arts degrees after a year of study of strategy and national defense.
“Today you see in front of you the fruits of your labor,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Naval War College president, at the graduation ceremony in Spruance Auditorium.
“You have emerged as a class of scholars with a commonality of purpose,” Chatfield said. “Your charge now as you prepare to re-enter your operational world is to take with you what you learned here – a different lens to view the challenges that you will inevitably face.”
The graduates included members of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard and represented two classes – the College of Naval Warfare, which includes more senior officers, and the College of Naval Command and Staff, which is for intermediate-level officers.
Cmdr. Timothy Oswalt was the honor graduate for the senior class.
“One of the fellows that we studied, Sun Tzu, said, ‘Know thyself,’” Oswalt told the audience from the stage. “I believe I know myself better than I did coming in here a year ago, and more importantly, I think I know how to represent this profession of arms that we are called to better than I did a year ago.”
Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Bouchoux was the honor graduate for the intermediate class.
“Being surrounded by such diverse and talented individuals is what makes this esteemed institution a special experience,” he told the audience.
The graduation address was delivered by professor Timothy Schultz, the college’s associate dean of academics and a retired Air Force U-2 pilot.
Schultz told the graduating class that it’s not good enough to be a lifelong learner. He advised them to be “unlearners” as well.
“Dedicate yourself to the higher and more elusive art of unlearning, because unlearning is the mark of true learning and true wisdom,” he said. “Think of the things we humans have had to unlearn in the past.”
Schultz listed a few examples: That the Earth is not the center of the universe, that swords and horses are not the most valuable enduring tools for cavalries.
“Think about the things you may have to unlearn in the future,” he said. “Quantum computing may require you to unlearn our traditional cryptology and our method of keeping secrets.”
Schultz advised the officers that war and learning share some of the same traits: They can be messy, unpredictable and difficult.
“Your struggle is what the ancient Greeks and the Olympian gods struggled against: the constant pull of hubris,” he said. “Pride and dearly held pretensions, a resistance to a greater truth and a satisfaction with a lesser one – an unwillingness to unlearn.”
Sending the new graduates off to their next assignments, college president Chatfield told them to think critically and lead well.
“You were given the gift of time here to develop those skills, a gift that you won’t necessarily have in the future,” she said. “So your charge is to use that gift wisely. Create the space to continue your own growth.”