Chief of naval operations encourages new officers to practice selflessness, dignity

Media Credit: Courtesy of ROTC

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson administers the Uniformed Services Oath of Office to the graduating class of midshipmen from the Capital Battalion, which is based out of GW.

Twelve midshipmen from the Capital Battalion Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps were commissioned Friday at the Kennedy Caucus Room.

More than 100 relatives and friends gathered at the Dirksen Senate Office Building – where historical events like the McCarthy hearings have taken place – to watch GW and Georgetown students take an oath of office and be commissioned as either an ensign or second lieutenant.

Here are a few key takeaways from the speech:

1. Leaders eat last

Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told graduates that as they begin their careers as leaders they should remember to put their team before themselves. Selflessness is a trademark of a good leader, and new officers have to learn to shift their day-to-day operations in service to their subordinates, Richardson said.

“When you’re hungry, I can almost guarantee that your team is more hungry,” he said. “Your first instinct is now not to get food for yourself, but to feed your team first.”

Graduating midshipmen (from right to left) Chunchun Waskin, James Olsen and Kelsey Ohm stand at attention during their commissioning ceremony.

2. An oath to guide your life

Richardson said the Navy assumes that “men and women of the highest caliber” will join its ranks, and new officers should maintain their character while becoming experts in their specific jobs to live up to the Navy’s expectations.

“Mistakes of the technical nature are easily remedied, but I’ll tell you a mistake of character, a crack in your dignity, is much harder to recover,” he said.

Richardson added that the average person only swears a few oaths in their lifetime, to their spouses or their religions, but the Navy oath will lead new officers to live as trustworthy and well-intentioned citizens, even when no one is looking.

3. Remembering the University’s namesake

Richardson quoted a letter from George Washington to Marquis de Lafayette that Washington used to highlight the Navy’s importance to the country.

“It follows then, as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious,” Washington said in the letter.

Richardson said the Navy has contributed to key diplomatic historical moments, like carrying leaders to sign treaties and end wars, and new officers should keep in mind that they are continuing a proud tradition.

“You will spend your entire career trying to live up to what President Washington inspires us to take on,” he said.

He added the Navy’s humanitarian promise to never pass a mariner in distress without offering aid, and their duty to protect U.S. trade routes have made the military group stand out in history.

“You’re going to be in the world’s most powerful, most decisive naval force, military power, but also that has contributed to the diplomatic, the economic and the humanitarian dimension of these powers,” he said.

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