Dempsey challenges TROY graduates to ‘be the change’ in their communities

Michael Dempsey addresses graduates during the spring commencement ceremony at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

Michael Dempsey addresses graduates during the spring commencement ceremony at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

Michael Dempsey, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Moore, encouraged graduates to put the skills learned and knowledge gained from Troy University to use in becoming the change their communities need.

Speaking during Friday evening’s spring commencement ceremony at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, Dempsey encouraged graduates to thank those who had helped them reach this milestone in their lives.

“If there is only one thing you remember from my remarks, I hope it is this – I ask all graduates to stop and think about those who sacrificed with them and thank those who helped you throughout this process,” he said. “While you have paid the price financially and with your work for this accomplishment, your loved ones have also paid the price. Perhaps it was some financial help; perhaps it was picking up tasks that you could not do; or perhaps it was just your absence while you completed your academic work.”

For Dempsey, the lesson of how much other’s sacrificed for him to earn his master’s degree came from his 7-year-old son.

“While I was in your shoes, the realization that the cost was hitting someone else was when my 7-year-old son left a note for me. It was on a pre-printed piece of paper that was titled ‘Things to Do.’ He set it among the notes and books I had on the table,” Dempsey recalled. “He wrote in his second-grade scrawl under things to do, ‘Play with Shane.’ Since I had started my master’s degree, I had been using the time we had set aside for playing after my workday for schoolwork. It was a lesson I have never forgotten. For your families, your time is valuable, and you have sacrificed. My absence to complete my schoolwork affected my entire family. It was not in any syllabus or course description, but it was perhaps one of the valuable lessons I learned during my studies. The sacrifice you have all made for this degree goes beyond the grade you have received for a class. Your inner circle has paid for this accomplishment as well. Thank them for the resources they have provided, the time they have provided and for what they have missed due to your commitment to this milestone.”

Dempsey recounted the many ways in which is master’s degree in international relations from TROY had enabled him to be successful throughout his career.

Dempsey credited lessons learned during his coursework at Troy University for preparing him, as a Special Forces officer, to better understand the power dynamics in the Pacific where the United States was viewed as “an unwelcomed visitor” to many of the region’s people. He also credited his studies for preparing him some 15 years later to engage with governments, militaries and police forces of seven Central American nations while serving as a part of the Department of Defense’s Joint Taskforce Bravo.

Dempsey said his journey as a TROY student prepared him to be successful in several ways, including becoming a better writer and public speaker and equipping him with the tools necessary to more effectively articulate his positions on matters. His studies also challenged him to continue to improve.

“I learned that every accomplishment sets expectations for the next challenge” he said. “My professors knew what I was capable of because of what I had already produced. It challenged me to produce better work in each seceding project. Your bosses will know that based on your well-researched, well-articulated, well-written and well-reasoned communication, you are ready for more work, responsibility and, if you are in the right organization, more pay, all because you studied at Troy University.”

Dempsey encouraged graduates to celebrate their accomplishment, but also continue their journeys as lifelong learners.

“You started something, and you brought it to a conclusion. At a point in time — two, three, four or perhaps five years ago — you had a goal to sign up for, attend and complete a course of study. And you did it,” he said. “Now as graduates of Troy University, know that you have a reputation to uphold. I and those other Troy University graduates that stood up tonight have been setting expectations for you. Set the bar higher for the next generation of graduates in this area. Set the bar higher, improve on our legacy and don’t stop this journey of self-improvement. Your work is not done; this is just the rest stop. Now you have become a lifelong learner, using all the skills you have learned so far. Our community needs you to lead us into the future. Be the change that this community needs.”