Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School graduation ceremony

September 12, 2009

Thank you, Colonel Charles.

General Robinson… family and friends of the candidates… and, most importantly, those here who are soon to become officers in the Missouri National Guard.

Second lieutenants, congratulations on the completion of your training. This is a day for which you have long prepared – and I am honored to be a part of this occasion.

You would not be sitting here today – with your family and friends looking on with pride – if you did not have the desire and the drive to serve your country as an officer in the finest military in the world.

There is a series of motivational books you’re probably familiar with by a pastor named Rick Warren... and it started with “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

I bring that up because, during the opportunities I have had to be with the Citizen-Soldiers of the Missouri National Guard over the past eight months as Governor, both here in Missouri and in-theater overseas…

As well as during the time I spent with the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of our other military branches when I was in the Middle East, I have witnessed what can be accomplished by those driven by purpose – and given the kind of training and support that only the American military provides.

It is a purpose that has helped you and your comrades to quickly restore power to towns in the Bootheel paralyzed by two inches of ice… or clear trees from roads and streets in north Missouri after a tornado moved through... or drill wells in a dry Afghan village… or find and remove IEDs to protect innocent lives along a dust-choked road.

Your training has prepared you to be leaders of soldiers... to know how to quickly and appropriately react to situations …to protect the lives of innocent civilians and those under your command, and to accomplish your mission.

The branches of service you have chosen are greatly varied – field artillery and engineers, military police and infantry, to name just a few. But all of you have benefited during your training from the collective experience and wisdom of the officers and enlisted personnel who have instructed you.

And I know that in the coming years, you will not only use the knowledge they have given you, you will pass it on to the next generation of soldiers – a legacy that has kept our country’s armed forces strong for more than 230 years.

As graduates of Officer Candidate School, you are to be especially commended because you have had the experience and the perspective of being in the enlisted ranks. You have a special insight into the thinking of those you will soon lead, an insight that will make you a better leader.

I also commend you for embarking on – and completing – this training, because of the additional commitment of time being a commissioned officer means you will give in service to your state and your country.

This is no small thing, as you know – and as those who love and care for you also know.

Your dedication and your sacrifice, and that of many thousands more like you across this country, are helping to keep us safe and to protect our freedom and liberty.

When I traveled to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Germany this summer, I was very privileged to spend time with the members of ADT II, the Agri-Business Development Team of the Missouri National Guard that is helping villagers in Afghanistan become self-sufficient in feeding themselves. I saw the pride they were taking in their work, knowing that they were not only working to win the war, but also to win the peace.

Our Missouri National Guard is leading the way on these efforts, and all of us can be immensely proud of what those who wear the uniform of our state’s National Guard are doing around the world and here at home.

There is something particularly honorable about being an officer in the Missouri National Guard, and you are now part of a storied tradition.

It is a tradition that includes one of the most famous Missourians – a captain of artillery from Independence who would ably lead his battery made up of men from the Kansas City area in the trenches of France during the First World War.

Harry Truman used the leadership skills he honed during that bloody conflict to the benefit of Missouri as a senator, and to the United States and the world as a President who made tough, history-changing decisions. Without a doubt, Captain Truman was driven by purpose – and an example for you to emulate.

You are making all of Missouri proud today, and I know we will continue to have that pride in you all during your term of service. Graduates, I salute you, and wish you well. Thank you.