British officer shares wisdom during Kermit Roosevelt Lecture

By Jorge Garcia PV Staff Writer - October 5, 2022
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The Class of 2024 Cadets gathered at Robinson Auditorium to learn about the legacy of Kermit Roosevelt and receive insight on strategies and tactics from British Lt. Gen. Sir Ralph Wooddisse, commander of the Field Army, during the 76th annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture on Sept. 29 at the U.S. Military Academy.

In 1947, the annual exchange of American and British military lecturers began in memory of the late Kermit Roosevelt, a prominent Soldier, writer and the son of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

Wooddisse opened his lecture by commending the United States for how the country responded following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

“It was striking that your commander-in-chief just three hours after the announcement, changed his entire schedule to come up and pay his respects to the U.K. embassy in Washington D.C., and even more striking that he was present at her funeral a little over a week ago in Westminster Abbey,ˮ Wooddisse said. “It means alot to us Brits that this country took the time and the trouble to pay their respects to this remarkable woman. So, thank you ... we are immensely grateful.ˮ

As the lecture continued, Wooddisse recounted his first lecture, which took place over 20 years ago, during the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Burwell Bell III delivered the lecture.

“He spelled out the implications of 9/11 on U.S. foreign policy, the extent to which your country has been injured, and the necessary actions that you were about to take,ˮ Wooddisse said. “It was a really powerful moment and it brought home to me just how visceral the mood was in your country at the time."

He added that the speech was a foretelling of what would transpire in the future, given that two years later, Wooddisse found himself in Baghdad commanding a British special forces squadron that was part of a U.S. task force with U.S. Army Rangers, armor and aviation support.

“It was a seminal professional moment for me,ˮ Wooddisse added. “It’s given me a decade’s long respect for your military, and in particular, the people who serve within it.ˮ

Wooddisse then addressed Kermit Roosevelt and the acclaim he achieved during his tenure as a Soldier serving during World War I and II with U.S. and British Armed Forces.

Following his death in 1943, his wife, Belle Roosevelt, sought to honor his memory by establishing the annual lecture.

After he concluded his speech, Wooddisse broke into a questions and answers segment, in which he responded to a range of questions from cadets mainly focused on current affairs, military strategy and the continued partnership between U.S. and British Armed Forces.

“My predecessors who’ve done this lecture said that the West Point questions are always the best,ˮ Wooddisse remarked.

As the event concluded, Wooddisse was gifted a cadet saber on behalf of the Class of 2024.

“Both of our nations, I believe, brought something important to the relationship. But it’s only when we combine our strengths that we are able to achieve great things ... and we will always be better together than apart,ˮ Wooddisse concluded.