U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus mixed serious comments with light banter during a visit to Georgia Gwinnett College, a favor for his old friend who is president of the school.
Providing the commencement address to the 38 graduates, who on Friday doubled the number of Georgia Gwinnett College alumni, the general offered traditional advice to new graduates. For example: "Achieving any worthwhile goal ... requires relentless determination."
In between that advice, the man who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and central Asia as head of the Central Command, exchanged barbs with GGC President Daniel Kaufman. They taught at West Point together.
The college president teased about how Petraeus met his wife, then the daughter of West Point's superintendent. Petraeus remarked that when the two friends used to compare the number of pull-ups they'd completed, he'd always tell Kaufman he'd done "one more than you."
After the graduation ceremony, Petraeus discussed critical issues he faces with two wars and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "responsibly."
"I do believe very strongly that we should live our values," he said. "Generations of soldiers have fought to defend those values, and we should not shrink from living them, from operationalizing them, on the battlefield."
He acknowledged the challenge of avoiding civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We have to be sensitive to the innocent loss of life," he said.
But, Petraeus added, "We do not want our soldiers fighting with one arm behind their backs."