• General James Amos and spouse pose in the University of Idaho Auditorium

2012 Commencement Address

“The first merit badge I earned was the aviation one. It was the only one I was interested in.” Learn more about General James F. Amos.

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General Amos addresses University of Idaho graduates at Commencement 2012

Commencement in Review | Spring 2012

"Character"
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Encourages Strength of Courage and Character to Class of 2012


Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General James F. Amos issued a stirring call to Vandal graduates Saturday at the University of Idaho’s Spring Commencement to live a life of public service.

Amos, a native of Wendell, Idaho and University of Idaho class of 1970 alumnus, called on the class of 2012 to “serve others, your community or humanity in some way.”

Amos spoke of the importance of personal and national character. Though he has served and traveled all over the world, “every time I return I thank God for the nation I call home.”

When terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, most of the 2012 graduates were in the sixth or seventh grades. Amos told the graduates that the attacks brought out the best of the American spirit, things like “unconditional compassion, fierce national pride and an unshakeable resolve.”

At the time of the attacks, Amos worked as a brigadier general on the fourth floor of the outer ring of the Pentagon. He was out of his office at the time when American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon, he said. His staff miraculously escaped, but his office was completely destroyed.

Amos asked the crowd what led New York City police and firefighters to go into the World Trade Center towers at great risk to themselves. “Character,” he said. Amos said that they demonstrated who we are as Americans.

Amos said 9/11 gave Americans a resolve to live for something greater than themselves. The general cited examples of the indomitable spirit of Americans wounded while fighting overseas, who now fight to rebuild their lives. Amos said the selflessness of doctors and charities who serve these wounded warriors proves that the American spirit and American character are thriving.

These veterans stepped up and overcame their challenges because of their character, he said. “No one asked them.”

Amos urged the graduates to give part of their lives to something greater than themselves. He challenged the graduates to think about who they are and what defines them. To think about how their character was formed, and by whose fingerprints, and to realize that for decades to come they would continue forming their character.

The nation will continue to face challenges in the future, he said – and overcome them. “That’s who we are.” That’s what defines the United States of America, he said.

The indomitable spirit roused on 9/11 is the mark of America’s true character, said Amos. “Graduates, this is the America who’s welcoming you today.”