VMI Holds Convocation for 183rd Academic Year

Retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig addresses the Corps.

Retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig addresses the Corps of Cadets at VMI’s Academic Convocation.--VMI Photo by Kelly Nye.

LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 8, 2022—The Academic Convocation ceremony was held at Virginia Military Institute on Wednesday, Sept. 7 in Cameron Hall, opening the 183rd academic year.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, welcomed back the cadets and faculty, and congratulated the class of 2023 on their leadership of the Corps of Cadets. He noted that there have been many changes, modernizations, and improvements at the Institute since its founding, but the fundamental values of VMI have not changed: the Honor Code, the physical demands, the regimental structure, and the unique method of education, part of which is bringing on post diverse speakers with unique perspectives.

Brig. Gen. Robert Moreschi, dean of the faculty, introduced the American Constitutional History Initiative, a new program to VMI, to teach Constitutional history, and help mold cadets into model citizen-soldiers. In view of the new initiative, retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig was invited to address the audience on the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. Lt. Col. Mark Boonshoft who chairs VMI’s American Constitutional History Initiative introduced Luttig.

Luttig, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and served on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for 15 years, said he was honored beyond words to have the opportunity to address the Corps of Cadets, faculty, and staff on the subject of the  Constitution, noting the importance of the upcoming Constitution Day, which honors the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Constitution Day is observed Sept. 17.

Luttig lamented that the United States and its institutions are under vicious attack, not from enemies outside its borders, but from within the country, for the purpose of causing citizens to question laws and democracy. He said there are perils facing the nation, and that many Americans believe the democracy is on the verge of collapse. He called for a Constitutional revival and quoted from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1838 called The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: “Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”

Luttig stated that America is in desperate need of a reawakening and quickening. “We have strayed and lost perspective. We have become divided. We no longer recognize the virtues of character that we have held dear since our country was founded. Things like honor, integrity, truthfulness, honesty, humility, selflessness, duty, obligation, responsibility, bravery, courage, and country. We can’t agree on what is right or wrong, fact or fiction, truth or falsehood.” He added that no society can long endure polarizing disagreements.

Luttig urged his audience to reject the divisiveness, and avowed, “I refuse to believe this is who we have become. I want to believe that we Americans still believe in these fundamental matters, that we still believe in America.” He continued, “We need to reunite. How can we begin? By talking and listening to each other as human beings and fellow citizens. We must turn to ourselves, we must look to the first seven words of the Constitution, ‘We the People of the United States.’ We must come to the aid of our struggling America and refortify our democracy.”

Luttig concluded his address by wishing the Corps “Godspeed” in their future tasks of righting the listing ship that is the country, to correct it, and have it once again become the beacon of freedom for the entire world.

Luttig has served as counselor and special advisor to the CEO and the board of directors of the Coca-Cola Company since January 2021.  Prior to joining Coca-Cola, he was counselor and senior advisor to the Boeing Company CEO and board of directors. He was executive vice president and general counsel for Boeing from 2006 to 2020.

Luttig served as assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, and counselor to the Attorney General of the United States. He was deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1990-1991.

Luttig was assistant counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982. From 1982 to 1983, he was a law clerk to Judge Antonin Scalia at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  From 1983 to 1985, he served as a law clerk and then special assistant to the Chief Justice of the United States, Warren E. Burger.

Luttig earned his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University and his law degree from the University of Virginia.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE

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