SC141 Graduation Ceremony – 27.01.2023
The Graduation Ceremony for the 141st Senior Course formally concluded the 22-week programme of the NATO Defense College’s flagship course.
On Friday 27 January 2023, the 72 Course Members received their diplomas and were honoured with prizes for individual and collective achievements. The College’s Main Auditorium hosted a wide array of attendees, including Ambassadors to Rome, various authorities and Defence Attachés, Course Members’ families, and NDC Staff. For the occasion, the Guest of Honour was Ambassador Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who delivered the Graduation Address.
All the distinguished guests and the Honour Guard were welcomed upon arrival at the NATO Defense College. The Commandant, Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann, welcomed Ambassador Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who signed the Guest Book. They then proceeded to hold an Office Call in the Commandant’s office.
The opening of the Graduation Ceremony featured introductory remarks delivered by the NDC Commandant. In his speech, Lieutenant General Rittimann highlighted the personal development path and team growth experienced by the students as well as the extensive range of lectures and discussions with high-level speakers and renowned experts that they were able to attend and participate in as Course Members, and which represent the unique value added by the NDC’s academic offer. Moreover, he mentioned the three Field Studies in which Course Members took part during the Course and commended the whole Class for the positive attitude they showed throughout, along with their motivation, engagement, flexibility and most importantly, resilience and personal discipline.
Afterwards, the guest speaker took the floor for the Graduation address. Ambassador Guéhenno congratulated Course Members on completing the Course, observing that they were graduating at a pivotal moment in the long history of war and peace. “Since 1945 the UN Charter has played an important role in preventing new wars of aggression, specifying that the only legitimate use of force is for self-defence or supporting a country asserting its right to self-defence. The invasion of Ukraine is not the first violation of the Charter, but it is the first time since the creation of the UN that no broader interest is invoked, with growing nationalism the primary motivation of that war”. Then, using the metaphor of the small fish being eaten by the big fish, he pointed out how unpredictable and dangerous the world is when a nuclear war can be triggered by miscalculation and intimidation related to the potential use of nuclear weapons. Looking specifically to the outcomes of the war in Ukraine, while also turning his attention to various other ongoing conflicts around the world, he identified three main perspectives: Europe, the rest of the world, and the UN along with its peacekeeping operations. He concluded by remarking how important it is to have a compass showing the way towards a world regulated by law, and that that compass can only be the UN Charter. In this framework, NATO is clearly “the strongest military alliance that ever existed and it is at its strongest when it is used to serve international law in conformity with the UN Charter”. He added that, at such a critical time, “the final outcome of the Ukraine war will shape our common future and there are many possibilities between the worst and the best case scenarios, but what is sure is that NATO, as a formidable defensive alliance that has no other ambitions than upholding the principles of international law, sends a powerful and necessary message to all those who are tempted to succumb to the temptation of force”.
Before Course Members were conferred their diplomas, the Course President and Vice President, Colonel Stefan Göbbels and Mr Trond Øvstedal, provided a joint farewell speech encompassing the distinguishing traits of the Course’s curriculum, which they described as the must-have ingredients in a recipe for a successful Senior Course. In conclusion, wishing all the best to their fellow graduates in their future endeavours, they pointed out the following: “The graduation that we celebrate today formally certifies that we have learned so-called ‘critical reflection and strategic thinking’. About crystal-clear facts as well as all the mysteries”. And “what we make of it, is our own responsibility. We should be aware of them – even after and outside the College”.
The ceremony continued with the recognition of the Course Members who wrote Individual Papers worthy of being published. Subsequently, the Eisenhower Prize, for the best Committee Study Project, was awarded to Committee 8.
Finally, the Commandant, together with the Guest of Honour and the Dean, handed the diplomas to the newly graduated Course Members, who have now officially become part of the Anciens’ Community.
Ambassadors, Defense Attachés, Italian authorities and distinguished guests attended the ceremony together with the NDC staff and the families of the Course Members.