MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
The former commanding general of Marine Corps Logistics Command, now director, Marine Corps Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., returned to Albany for a celebration with Albany Technical College, fellow Marines, city and county officials, civilian-Marines and friends.
Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams was the guest speaker during ATC’s 50th anniversary convocation held at the Albany James H. Gray Sr. Civic Center, Friday.
Dr. Anthony Parker, president, ATC, told the large crowd of students, staff and local dignitaries, Williams’ biography chronicled his increasing responsibility since being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1974, and his promotion through the ranks to his current post.
During his introduction, Parker said most of Williams’ friends outside the Marine Corps came to know him when he arrived in Albany June 2005 with his golf clubs as commanding general of Logistics Command.
“He has been a friend to ATC since his arrival and was instrumental in the establishment of the Logistics and Supply Chain Management Program here,” he said.
Williams began his speech by saying it was good to hear the words “welcome home” by so many people and it truly felt like he had returned for a homecoming and thanked everyone for warmly receiving him and his wife, Bobbie.
“I’m happy to be here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this great institution. When you look at the history and dedicated service of ATC and what it means to this community, we should all be thankful,” he said. “General Colin Powell said there are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
Williams said opportunity should be added to the list and failure is considered a natural order of things.
“No one is successful at everything and sometimes you will fail. If there is no failure, that tells me you are not stretching yourself enough,” he said. “It is not the failure that matters; it is what you do as a result of it.”
Directing his comments to the hundreds of students who were in attendance, Williams said tradition becomes so only if it is passed from generation to generation, which is why the anniversary theme ‘strong tradition, proven success, powerful future’ is significant.
“Tradition is important to not only those who follow, but those who have gone on before you. If you look around this room, you will see what success looks like,” he said. “Dr. Parker is not done. You have a great visionary and leader here and ATC continues to produce stellar citizens and a stellar workforce.”
Williams used his career as a Marine to encourage the program attendees, especially the students, by telling them they can either use this experience as an opportunity to move closer to their hopes and dreams or choose to accept failure.
Williams said when Marines reach the point of failure, they certainly don’t stand still, they own up to it, re-assess and re-attack.
He briefly told the story of a general who discovered he was about to be over-run during a battle and ordered his men to pull back.
As they were pulling back, people asked him why he was retreating. He told them “retreat hell - I’m just attacking from a different direction.”
“Some of you may dismiss this example as me being a Marine or this is just the way we are, which is probably true. We have been guaranteed three things by our founding fathers: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are not guaranteed happiness but we have the right to pursue it,” he said. “We also have the ability to pursue our hopes and dreams.”
Williams said he had to overcome making excuses himself because his high school and college teachers did not allow it and neither does the Marine Corps.
“I was taught the mantra of doing my best, to always give 100 percent and strive for excellence in everything I do,” he said. “I’m sure most of you know what Marines are like since the base is so close.”
Williams described the Marines as a strange individuals with very close haircuts who are not in step with society because they do unreasonable things like cling to old fashioned ideas such as patriotism, duty, honor and country.
“Some may say we hold extremist ideas such as believing we are our brother’s keeper and we are responsible for those on our right and on our left,” he said. “It is true that we have been seen standing when the American flag passes and singing the national anthem at ball games and we do take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart.
“We believe our oath is something to be honored and we honor our fellow comrades. From time to time we are overly concerned about what we can do for our country and not what our country can do for us,” he said.
Williams said because he has spent a lot of time with ATC and in the Albany community, he has seen those same traits of patriotism.
Looking at Mayor Willie Adams, he said “you all are going to have to work on the haircut thing, but some of you don’t have a problem since (all your hair) has all fallen out anyway,” causing the crowd to erupt in laughter.
Williams closed by saying, “As you continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ATC, look back on your history, but don’t be held captive by it. Look towards the future and use what you have learned from the past to set yourself up for the next 50 years.”
Dr. Everette Freeman, president, Albany State University, added, “Lieutenant General Williams gave a speech that unquestionably will travel well over the next 50 years of Albany Technical College’s storied history. In calling upon all members of the ATC family to hold true to the time-honored values of responsibility, hard work, dedication, respect and dignity, he reminded us all to recommit ourselves to helping present and future technical college students reach their full potential.”