Captain Phillips to speak at commencement

Courtesy of Castleton Spartan

Capt. Richard Phillips and his wife during a former visit to Castleton.

Commencement speeches seem to always have the same theme about what the future holds and how great the past four years have been. Luckily for Castleton students, faculty and family, this will not be the case for the 2016 graduation.

Capt. Richard Phillips has become an American hero over the past few years for his role in the Maersk Alabama hijacking, and he will be sharing some of his experiences at this year’s commencement in May.

When asked about Phillips speaking at commencement, the Castleton community seemed to use one common word: “Honor.”

“We are honored to have him, he is such a good man, a great husband and father,” said President Dave Wolk. “He showed impeccable courage and inspiration through that ordeal.”

Students are excited to hear him speak.

“I think it’s awesome and I feel honored that someone of his magnitude would come speak to us at our graduation,” senior Rob Coloutti said. “After all he has been through, it’s inspirational that he spends time sharing his story.”

Senior John Flynn continued the theme by saying “I would be honored to hear him speak at graduation. For someone with such a storied background to come and share his time to talk to us is great.”

Phillips was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009 while his daughter, Mariah, was enrolled as an art major at Castleton.  Phillips spent five days as a prisoner at sea before he was saved on April 12, 2009 by U.S. Navy SEALS. 

In 2013, Tom Hanks starred as the hero in the film Captain Phillips, which portrays the day-by-day standoff between the pirates and the Navy. Interestingly enough, in the opening scene of the film, the Phillips’ family van is shown with a Castleton sticker resting proudly on the back.

Castleton students are already getting anxious to hear what the American hero has to say.  

“I’m most excited to hear about how his life has changed after everything he went through and how he has recovered from such a devastating experience,” said Coloutti.

According to Mariah, it didn’t take long for Phillips to overcome the situation.

“He put that event behind him the minute he got home. He’s very inspiring in that sense. No matter what has happened to you, there is life in between. Life goes on.”

That being said, the experience has left an impact on the Phillips family.

“As a family, we are more grateful for what we have in life,” said Mariah.  “You really can’t dwell on the past, it’s meant to stay behind you so you can move forward.”

Wolk thinks Phillips will not only be interesting, but that he has a lot to offer to Castleton graduates.

“I think he will be inspirational, informative and entertaining,” said Wolk. “He has a great sense of humor and is a great person who I think will resonate with our students.”

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