Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Encourages Fayetteville State University Graduates to Embrace Service
Fayetteville, North Carolina – Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III delivered a powerful speech today at the Fayetteville State University graduation ceremony, urging the graduates to embrace the spirit of service and make a difference in their communities and the nation. Secretary Austin, a former resident of Fayetteville and alumnus of the university, emphasized the importance of public service and highlighted the proud tradition of Fayetteville State in producing dedicated individuals committed to making a positive impact.
Addressing the graduates, Secretary Austin began by expressing his delight at being back in Fayetteville, a place he considers home due to his years of service at nearby Fort Bragg. He acknowledged the resilience and strength of the community, which has been instrumental in supporting the military and their families.
Drawing from personal experience, Secretary Austin shared that his deep connection to Fayetteville goes beyond his military service. He revealed that he met his wife, Charlene Austin, at Fayetteville State University, and they have been happily married for over 40 years.
Commending the graduates on their achievements, Secretary Austin acknowledged the challenges they faced, particularly during the global pandemic. He lauded their determination, perseverance, and resilience in overcoming obstacles such as juggling full-time jobs, assisting their children with homework, and navigating the difficulties of remote learning.
Reflecting on Fayetteville State’s proud legacy of service, Secretary Austin shared the inspiring story of Andrew Johnson, an African American student who attended the university in the 1940s. Despite the racial barriers prevalent at the time, Johnson pursued his dream of becoming a pilot and eventually joined the renowned Tuskegee Airmen. Their exceptional service during World War II demonstrated the courage and honor of Black Americans who defended the nation, even while facing discrimination and segregation.
Secretary Austin also highlighted the significance of the 75th anniversary of President Truman’s executive order, which called for equal treatment and opportunity in the U.S. military. He emphasized the progress made since then and encouraged the graduates to carry forward the legacy of service by becoming advocates for equality, volunteering in their communities, and pursuing careers that contribute to the betterment of society.
The Secretary of Defense spoke passionately about the transformative power of service, citing the example of Frances Hesselbein, a renowned leader who led the Girl Scouts of America. Secretary Austin emphasized that service is not limited to military service but encompasses various forms, including healthcare, law, entrepreneurship, education, and more.
In closing, Secretary Austin reminded the graduates of their responsibility to uphold the principles of equality and justice. He urged them to let their actions speak louder than words and emphasized the importance of making a lasting impact on their communities and the nation.
The Fayetteville State University Class of 2023 received Secretary Austin’s message with enthusiasm and pride. As they prepare to embark on their respective journeys, they carry with them the values instilled by their alma mater, ready to contribute to a more perfect union.