Lessons Learned from Military School

An excerpt from Cadet Salisbury’s graduation speech:

Growing up, I never would have thought I would have had the opportunity to be up on a stage, speaking at my own graduation. Sure, I was a decent student, occasionally achieving a 4.0, but routinely achieving a 3.8 or below. Essentially, I allowed the acceptance of normality to envelop me whole.

Mediocrity’s insistent temptation placed me in an undesirable circumstance. My life had directed itself in a singular direction – failure. My academic potential remained stagnant, and I had failed to seize the opportunities presented to me. I made the conscious decision to screw my life up and complacently relax as my potential floated away.

Now I’m sure many of you have heard the inspirational quote that Sylvester Stallone said as he portrayed the withered down boxer Rocky Balboa. He said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

At that point in my life, I had been the one that had beaten myself down. I knew that I had to take deliberate action in my own life, otherwise I would remain fallen and lost, with no option but to contemplate what could have been. And so, I made the single greatest decision of my entire life – I decided to transfer to the Army and Navy Academy.

I knew little to nothing about the Academy when I first came. I didn’t know the types of Cadets who would be around me, the types of educators who would be teaching me, or the types of adults who would guide me in the rest of my high school career; but I made a personal promise to myself. I was going to take every opportunity as it came, work as hard as I possibly could, and not only expectations, but surpass them. No excuses.

As a sophomore, I had the opportunity to be a member of Charlie Company under the leadership of Captain Maldonado. His guidance and morality catalyzed my ability to succeed at the Academy. I was fortunate enough to become a squad leader, and then a platoon leader my Junior Year. By the end of the year, I knew I was more than prepared to take on more leadership responsibility.

Entering my junior year, I greatly increased my expectations for myself. I was going to hold the top position of Battalion Commander. Throughout the year, I worked diligently in my academics and vigorously in my leadership position, and achieved my goal.

My year as Battalion Commander was truly a remarkable one. I have seen all of my fellow Cadets, from the seventh grade all the way to twelfth, progress in tremendous ways. They have developed sincere pride not only in their accomplishments, but also in the incredible stature of the Corps as a whole. I am so excited to see how the will seize their opportunities and succeed in life. I wish the incoming Senior Class as well as the remaining Cadets all the best in the following years.

These past three years have gone by so fast, it is nearly inexpressible. In this short span of time, I have made so many memories and formed so many bonds. I remember my first roommate Zhang Weijie – my first experience with an international student. I was able to communicate with him in Chinese because I studied Chinese my freshman year in high school.

I remember my brothers from my Sophomore year, like Sam Harlib ’13,  and many others. I remember my brothers from my Junior year – Sung Ming Ko ’14, Spencer White ‘14, Kava Aviu ’14, and many others.

And, of course, I will always remember the brothers in my class. Every single on of them.

I want everyone here to understand that this Academy has given me something utterly unattainable anywhere else. It has given me an outstanding education, endless opportunities in leadership and self-development, infinite support, and, most of all, an unparalleled sincerity shown by the wonderful Faculty and Staff members who have given their hearts and souls for every Cadet on this campus.

In this institution, I find hope. I find the opportunity to become the best that I can be, and whether they admit or not, so do the rest of the Cadets on this campus.

To the Class of 2015:

I challenge you all to escape society’s acceptance of mediocrity. Be ambitious and never let anyone tell you that you aren’t capable of doing something. Be the man you are capable of being, and seize the opportunities presented to you.

Fulfill your potential and never develop complacency. If you want something, go and get it; don’t sit around and expect it to come to you. Whatever it is you want to achieve in life, do everything you can to achieve it.

You can, and will, be successful if you pour every essence of your being into whatever goals you wish to achieve. Never, ever give up on yourself.

I would like to finish by thanking those who mean the most to me. I would like to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for His abundant blessings in my life. Thank you to my mother Elena. Mom, you have always worked your hardest to give me a better life. Thank you for your constant love; I can’t explain how much I love you. Ya teba leblu mamachka. Thank you to my father, Charles. Dad, you have always supported me and loved me. You have always believed in me and I am forever grateful.

Thank you to all of the teachers for their constant support and your dedication to myself and our school. In particular, I would like to thank Ms. Frankie for teaching me the wonders of syntactical fluency, Ms. Coe for teaching me all about chemistry and for being such a great mentor and friend, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Boyce for fascinating me with physical and astronomical properties, and finally Ms. Mitchell for making me genuinely intrigued with Calculus, the first time I have ever been happy in a math class.

Thanks to the General, the Commandant, and all remaining members of the team who have made this Academy what it is today. Your ambition and allegiance have made my experience so incredible, and I will always cherish it.

Finally, to my fellow brothers and the entire Senior class, thank you for allowing me to be your Battalion Commander. We’ve made some incredible memories, but most importantly, we’ve formed a bond that can never be broken. I love all of you.

Warrior Proud!

Special thanks to guest blogger Christopher Salisbury ’15.