More than one thousand students – 800 men and 206 women – comprised this year’s graduating class at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The commencement ceremony was held Friday, and graced by defense secretary Robert Gates, who delivered his last commencement address as the Secretary of Defense.
Gates, whose length of service spanned eight presidents, is scheduled to retire at the end of June, according to a feature on The Washington Post.
In his address to the Naval Academy Class of 2011, Gates asked the graduates to keep the qualities of good leaders in mind as they move forward with their careers in the Navy. Good leaders, according to Gates, possessed conviction, self-confidence, moral courage, integrity and common decency.
He also shared the insights that he was able to gain during his own career, which included stints in the CIA and the White House. Gates shared: “From this experience I have learned that real leadership is a rare and precious commodity, and requires qualities that many people might possess piecemeal to varying degrees, but few exhibit in total.”
Towards the end of his speech, an emotional Gates shared that he felt “a sense of personal responsibility” for the young men and women who were in the service, treating them as his own sons and daughters.
Gates said further: “Above all, remember that the true measure of leadership is not how you react in times of peace or times without peril… The true measure of leadership is how you react when the wind leaves your sails, when the tide turns against you.”