Valedictory Remarks, Derrick Shaw, Class of 2012

May 22, 2012  |  STUDENTS & ALUMNI

Dr. Lenczowski, Dean Smith, Ambassador Whittlesey, Dr. Wu, Colonels Eastman and Gunhus, distinguished Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees, Faculty and staff members, friends and family, and colleagues in the IWP Class of 2012.  I am extremely humbled and honored to have the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of our class.  My fellow grads are an amazing bunch of people.  In a perfect world, you should be able to hear remarks from each of them so that you could see firsthand how impressive they are, but I don't think Dr. Lenczowski wants a five-hour commencement.  In my brief moment to speak, I will humbly try to represent them and their achievements.

Before I say anything else, I do have a special announcement that I know many in this group will appreciate.  Many of us have taken my faculty advisor,  Dr. Mike Waller's Public Diplomacy and Political Warfare class.   I took it last spring semester - the Spring of 2011.  My announcement is:  Dr. Waller, as of two days ago, I have finally finished the last of the readings, but the therapy I'm receiving for the final exam will continue for a bit longer.  Honestly, this is just a little inside humor, and for those you who are not familiar - Dr. Waller's reading list is, shall we say, "rather extensive."  In all seriousness, it was a great class and he's one of my favorite professors - but I couldn't have this opportunity at the podium and not have at least some fun with the challenging nature of his curriculum.

A great NCO taught me once that the first place that one should offer thanks is to his or her family.  So I'd like to thank my wife Beth - who, for the better part of a year of my education at IWP, was also in school full-time at the Boston University Center for Digital Arts, Georgetown Campus.  I'd also like to thank my children Lilly, Anna (both here today), and our 18-month old son Liam, whom we decided it might be best to keep otherwise occupied today -  he's moved into the random yelling and emotional breakdown phase over small incidents... and we didn't want to subject you to that today.  My wife and children are at the center of my life and on a daily basis; my little ones show me how important protecting future of our country really is.  On behalf of my fellow graduates, I'd like to offer thanks to all of the family members and friends who helped each of us get to this milestone in our educational tenures.  

Each of us came to IWP from profoundly different backgrounds.  There are insightful articles on the Institute website that show the personal journeys and decision-making that led to some of my fellow graduates' attendance at IWP, and I find a great deal of commonality with them.  My own journey started with my application to IWP based on simple curiosity after reading the mission statement and vision on the web.  After being accepted to this and a handful of other schools, my wife and I took a day and made the trek up to DC from Hampton Roads, Virginia to see the campus and talk to Andrew Horner, who is a recruitment officer here and also graduating today.  The decision to come to the Institute was obvious once we walked in the door.  No other school to which I applied had the atmosphere, educational philosophy, the caliber of people, and focus of IWP.  Collectively, those of us graduating today each found our own personal connection to this school.

In the book Full Spectrum Diplomacy and Grand Strategy written by Dr. Lenczowski and published last year, we are provided with an analogy for national security and foreign policy that I, as a military musician really enjoy.  Dr. Lenczowski writes that:

The achievement of foreign policy goals requires a multiplicity of means that can be likened to instruments in an orchestra.

Until yesterday when speaking with Dr. Tierney about my remarks, I honestly had no idea that the programs in your hand had imagery on this very topic - my mention of this was not planned or coordinated- it just made sense to me based on my education here.  Dr. Lenczowski goes forward with the assertion that: 

...only some instruments [of power] receive national strategic attention and requisite funding while others remain neglected, even though the "music" of our overall foreign policy depends on all the instruments and their proper coordination. In the actual playing of the music, what we hear for the most part is the loud, and sometimes even virtuoso, playing of the trumpets and at other times the violins-unfortunately even at those moments in the symphony when we should be hearing the woodwinds and the harp.

The IWP Class of 2012 graduates today so that we can join this "orchestra" of our national grand strategy and do our part to try and make it the geopolitical equivalent of the New York Philharmonic.  My fellow graduates will take their variety of educational and professional backgrounds to make a difference in this ensemble of national security and strategic intelligence.

Dr. Lenczowski:  thank you for your vision, leadership, and for IWP:  the school that has prepared us for the audition into this orchestra.

To the IWP faculty:  thank you for your professional insights, the information and resources you've given us, your stories, and your guidance in so many areas.  We each have those certain members of the faculty that touched us on a personal level and for me those were Doctors Pilon and Waller who motivated me to look for unique ways to transform my field.  I wish you could hear my experiences -all of our experiences - with every professor with whom we worked because I can tell you that each and every faculty member made our time here an exceptional one and for that we are grateful.

On behalf of my fellow Army Officers, I'd like to thank our Army leadership who allowed us to come to IWP and to have the opportunities to broaden ourselves in this wonderful environment.

To my fellow students:  Thank you for the opportunity to learn with you.  IWP is an atmosphere of camaraderie mixed in with some great friendships.  In my case it was my fellow Army Officers - Brian, Keith, Katie, Dave, and Adam - and the numerous study groups I was in - much like the one that helped me get through tough, challenging classes like the aforementioned Public Diplomacy/Political Warfare Class with Dr. Waller as Nat, Kristen, Katie, Amanda, and I got together weekly to pack information on soft power and propaganda into our brains... and occasionally we packed in a couple of glasses of wine too, but I didn't tell you that.  Academic collaboration happened in every class and I'm sure my fellow grads share my appreciation for the help and friendship that we exchanged along the way.

Once again:  To family and friends, thank you.  Without your ongoing support, our successes would not be possible.

And I have a final point to offer to my colleagues and fellow grads:  As we go out to join the ‘Orchestra' of our nation's affairs, let's not ever forget this great school that gave us so much and let's continue to help promote IWP to peers, colleagues, and up-and-coming future students.  If you love this place as much as I do, I'm sure you'll agree that The Institute deserves our ongoing support as proud Alumni.

And so I close with hearty congratulations to my friends and classmates in the Class of 2012, best wishes to you, thank you all for the opportunity to speak, and God Bless our great country!  Thank you!

Derrick Shaw
Valedictorian, Class of 2012 

Derrick Shaw

Photo by David Roush, Terra Nova Imaging