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‘Take up baton and run the race’

‘Take up baton and run the race’

The Press 12/23

Retired Lt. Gen. John Castellaw told graduates at Saturday’s commencement at the University of Tennessee at Martin that they have begun running a race. “That diploma is a baton,” he said. “Those of us that have already run the race are passing the diploma – the baton – to you. Now it’s your time to pick it up and face the challenges that face us.”

He added, “You know, each generation has all its challenges. And sometimes we may look a little bit inward and forget about how history has shown us that there are always better times ahead.” Citing challenges, he noted being at war for 10 years and the economic situation. Paraphrasing a Winston Churchill quote, Castellaw said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for everything else.” He added, “It’s the best opportunity for us as citizens to make sure our voices are heard.”

The speaker told graduates that they are going to have some responsibilities. Castellaw urged them to reflect on others who have gone before them as examples. He told graduates that Americans have great character, are a courageous people, they believe in having opportunity for all to improve their lives, in fairness and generosity and they value the differences in people. “We are a nation of so many diverse cultures, religions, peoples and views, and we’re able to bring it all together and create such a tremendous environment. You as graduates are going to be able to take advantage of that environment . …” He added, “We still stand on that hill as a beacon to the entire world.”

Speaking to graduates’ families and friends, he said, “Thank you for the sacrifices that you have made. You, by that support of these graduates, are going to ensure that we continue to have leadership, we continue to have the talent that will bring America, again, out of this discomfort that we’re in now and put us back to where we all want to be economically and otherwise.

“UT?Martin has truly become a world-class institution, and we should take a moment to really … thank those that have been responsible for that.” Reminding them that they have received a world-class education, “It’s preparing you to go out and be leaders in industry, in the military and in government.”

He closed his remarks saying, “May God bless this nation, and thank you all for what you have done.”

Castellaw, a Crockett County native, played freshman basketball at UT Martin, and was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). In 1972, he received a Bachelor of Science in agriculture. 

Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he first served in Marine tank and amphibian tractor units before becoming a helicopter pilot. 

He flew more than two dozen different aircraft and was Marine Aviator of the Year in 1990.  His last assignments on active duty were at the Pentagon.

University of Tennessee President-elect Dr. Joseph DiPietro attended the ceremony and extended congratulations to graduates who represented 45 different Tennessee counties and 16 states including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.  Graduates also represented the countries of France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Kingdom.  

Dr. Tom Rakes, UT Martin chancellor, presided over the exercises and conferred degrees. 

He congratulated graduates and asked them to maintain contact with UT Martin, offer advice and support and be supportive of higher education.

“You are joining over 38,000 graduates of UT?Martin located throughout the world.” 

He added, “Education is not what is received, but rather what is achieved. As graduates of UT Martin, your diploma is a symbol of a significant achievement— your resume now contains another tool, a body of knowledge and problem-solving skill-set that, if used wisely, can help ensure a wonderful future for you and those around you.”

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