Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford delivered the commencement speech to the class of 2017 at the United States Air Force Academy Wednesday.
In his speech, Dunford said that two factors will be key in their future success -- flexibility and character.
On flexibility, Dunford noted the rapidly changing threats the nation faces and the rapid pace at which technology is evolving. "Flexibility is not only the key to airpower, it's a key attribute for you as a leader," he said.
While Dunford stressed to the graduates the importance of maintaining the flexibility to adapt to new technologies throughout their careers, he seemed to put even more emphasis on strength of character. "The primary difference between success and failure on and off the battlefield has historically been about the human," he said.
Dunford went on to list the qualities that make a leader great, including the willingness to endure when the mission is tough, willingness to put yourself at risk and willingness to put your fellow airmen before yourself. "What's going to distinguish you as a leader is your personal example," Dunford said.
After delivering the commencement, Dunford was presented with a gift from the class of 2017. This year's gift was a painting of the Academy with a jet flying over it. Dunford was also made an honorary member of the class of 2017 and presented with the class coin.
General Dunford was introduced by Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson. In her remarks, Wilson recognized the cadets for their willingness to serve. She also discussed the role space will play in future wars. "In any future conflict, space will be a contested domain, and we have to prepare for it," she said.
Outgoing Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. General Michelle Johnson opened the program. Johnson praised the class of 2017, saying "These scholars, athletes, and innovators represent the best of what their generation has to offer."
Johnson also remarked on our rapidly changing world and the need to adapt, telling them "I'm confident that you are ready to outpace the rapid developments of our adversaries."
THE CLASS OF 2017
The class of 2017 is comprised of 979 cadets. 77% are men and 23% are women. 356 of the graduates are minorities. This is the Academy's 59th graduating class.
The Thunderbirds will perform at around 12:30 p.m. Stopping along I-25 to watch the performance is illegal.