Petraeus selected as Baccalaureate speaker

U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus Photo: Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail, U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, a Princeton alumnus and commander of the U.S. Central Command, has been selected as the speaker for this year's Baccalaureate ceremony, the interfaith worship service that is one of Princeton's oldest traditions. The service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, May 31, in the University Chapel.

After 19 months as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus assumed leadership of the U.S. Central Command -- which oversees American forces in East Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia -- in October 2008. He earned his master's in public affairs and a Ph.D. from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

President Shirley M. Tilghman selects the Baccalaureate speaker after consultation with senior class leaders. Class officers recommended Petraeus because he represents the University's informal motto of "Princeton in the nation's service and in the service of all nations."

"We are thrilled that Gen. David Petraeus has agreed to deliver the class of 2009's Baccalaureate address," said Grant Bermann, president of the senior class. "As a scholar, soldier and leader who has devoted his life to the service of his nation, he embodies the University's commitment to duty and sacrifice. We look forward with great excitement to both honoring his accomplishments and learning from his wisdom this spring."

Before taking over as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus served as head of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He previously was the first commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq and the NATO Training Mission in Iraq. Prior to that, he was commanding general of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Iraq.

Petraeus has been honored for his service with the Defense Department Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Department Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the State Department Distinguished Service Award, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, the Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm and the French Légion d'Honneur. He was recognized in 2005 by U.S. News and World Report as one of America's 25 best leaders and in 2007 by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential leaders of the year and one of four runners-up for Time's person of the year. In 2008, he was selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals and by Esquire magazine as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

Prior to his tours in Iraq, Petraeus served in Bosnia as assistant chief of staff for operations of the NATO Stabilization Force and as deputy commander of the U.S. Joint Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force. He has held numerous leadership and staff positions since being commissioned in the infantry upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974. He also has served as an assistant professor of international relations at the academy.

Princeton's Baccalaureate service is an end-of-the-year ceremony focused on members of the senior class. It includes prayers and readings from various religious and philosophical traditions. The earliest recorded Baccalaureate address -- titled "Religion and the Public Spirit" -- was delivered by President Samuel Davies in 1760 to the 11 members of the graduating class. Since 1972, the address has been given by a speaker chosen by the president after discussion with class leaders.

Seating in the chapel is limited to members of the senior class and faculty procession. Seniors receive two tickets for family and guests who may view the ceremony via simulcast, including on a large screen to be set up outside the chapel.