Gov. Susana Martinez congratulates a NMMI honor grad during commencement ceremonies, Saturday morning. Mark Wilson Photo
New Mexico Military Institute held its 118th commencement program Saturday at Pearson Auditorium, issuing diplomas to about 200 high school and junior college graduates. Gov. Susana Martinez was guest speaker at the ceremony, and talked about the unique history and traditions of the school.
Addressing the graduates, Martinez praised the Institute’s system of instruction, where the responsibility of teaching and training new cadets rests solely on the old cadets. She said she believes this structure makes NMMI a school for other institutions to follow.
“Within this structured environment of discipline, new cadets have matured and embodied the motto of duty, honor and achievement,” she said.
“NMMI is a very unique institution; it is the only state-supported, co-educational college preparatory military high school in the nation; and the only junior college of its kind in the western United States.
“It has disciplined and enriched eager and open minds since 1891. … That is over 120 years of excellence; 120 years challenging young men and women through a strict curriculum, preparing each of you for higher education and beyond.”
In further acknowledgment of NMMI’s history, Martinez remarked how NMMI was the first school in New Mexico to integrate military practices. She said the school has always been proud to instill a service-based mentality in its students, and listed NMMI’s achievements as proof of the institution’s success.
“In World War I, NMMI sent its 320 young men to the defense of a nation,” she said. “In World War II, graduates of NMMI involved themselves in every aspect of the war, and more than 150 of those fearless young people gave their lives for the sake of our freedom, and the freedom of others.
“Throughout history, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam war, present-day operations — NMMI has consistently produced the greatest graduates.
Graduates who are tested in the classroom, and prepared to pass the greatest test of all: The defense of our great nation. Both at home, and abroad.”
Martinez expressed to the graduates how they had been taught the value of discipline, time management, learning the stakes, self-sacrifice and the principles from which the nation was built. She then joked how she was about to make herself unpopular with the graduates, and proceeded to issue to cadets what she called their final homework assignment at NMMI.
“I want each and every one of you to take these skills and put them to work, every single day of your life,” Martinez said. “… Run as far as you can, and don’t look back. You have worked way too hard, and come too far to be anything less than extraordinary. …
“I encourage you all to take action. I have found that good things do not necessarily come to those who wait. In my experience, sometimes you need to fight for opportunity. Make it happen. Don’t let life happen to you. You have to happen.
“Do not be afraid of the unknown, do not be afraid of what you have not yet experienced. Life truly is an adventure. And you are about to embark on the greatest adventure of all.”
Martinez remarked how several people once told her that her own goals and aspirations were too ambitious, and that because she did not accept their assumptions, she eventually became the first female Hispanic governor in the United States.
Martinez closed her speech with a nod to the New Mexico Centennial, telling the graduating class that the milestone should remind them of the legacy they will leave for future generations. She said that as graduates look ahead to the next chapter of their own histories, they should remember how that same legacy is shaped by the decisions they make and the priorities they value in the present.
“I believe that good leaders are not born; good leaders are made,” she said. “And you are already leaders among your peers. Soon you will inspire the next generation following in your footsteps. …
“So let’s make a deal. As governor I will pursue policies that pave the way for your success. You, you work on that one last homework assignment. And continue to chase your dreams, and never let anyone tell you that your aspirations or your goals are too grand.”