New Mexico Military Institute cadets celebrate their graduation following commencement ceremonies, Saturday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)
The New Mexico Military Institute’s 119th graduating class sat for a memorable ceremony under a pleasant mid-morning sun, many marking a final break from the bricks and mortar, bugle calls and friendships they built behind campus walls.
“We have the entire world ahead of us, now we’re prepared to embark on a new journey,” high school valedictorian Robert Haley, of McLean, Texas, told the 77 junior college and 76 high school graduates.
Haley’s speech sparked the beginning of an emotional ceremony that featured keynote speaker Gov. Guillermo Padres Elias, of Sonora, Mexico, a NMMI alumnus, whose son graduated Saturday.
Many of the 153 newly graduated cadets will go on to military academies, some will venture on to traditional universities and colleges, and some will return to NMMI in the fall.
The year’s senior “quote” Haley said was about a “song’s pause.”
“The song’s pause means you think the song will end, but then it isn’t over,” Haley said. “But then it does end, and at that time the end is real. Class, the song may end some day, but it is definitely not over yet.”
Kristin Andrews, of Roswell, delivered the valedictory address as a graduating junior college cadet, speaking about family, education and criminal justice.
“(NMMI) provides a safe place to discover your leadership style, but also allows you to be able to make mistakes along the way,” she said.
Stephen Paternoster, president of the Board of Regents and a 1979 graduate, presented Padres Elias to the crowd.
“As a graduate, my success in life traces back to my life as a cadet,” the governor said. “It fills me with an emotion so deep that words cannot express.”
Padres Elias, who graduated NMMI high school in 1988 and returned for one year of college, became governor of Senora in 2009.
He spoke about three cornerstones he learned at NMMI that he said pushed him throughout his life: duty, honor and achievement.
“After graduating, these three simple words became more than just a sum of their parts,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘This is what I ought to be, this is what I can be, this is what I will be.’”
He told cadets he did not fully understand what NMMI taught him until later in life.
“When you get to that very difficult point in your life, NMMI will come through for you. I guarantee you,” he said. “It did for me. I can tell you it continues to influence me today and will continue to do so tomorrow.”
Padres Elias, who is working on water and safety issues for Sonora, said the NMMI principles are guiding him to serve.
“Leading by example will help us define our basic character,” he said. “These words make us strong to do the right thing in the face of adversity. They challenge us each day to be better than before.”
Padres Elias was one of many in his family to attend NMMI. He also sent his two sons to the school.
“Today I stand before you as your guest speaker and I must say amongst you graduates is my son, he is graduating with you with highest honors,” he said. “I am very proud.”
He also talked to the cadets about the challenge of being an inspiration, teaching themselves to lead and also follow.
“You are the glue that binds together our entire society,” he said. “You hold in your hands the destiny of our great nation. You are the leaders. You have what it takes to find the solutions. Will your future be easy? No it will not. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But I can guarantee without a doubt your path will be exciting and event-filled.
“You are the guideposts. Stand like beacons in the night.”