An open letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and the people of Maryland

24 April 2020

The Honorable Larry Hogan
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD

Governor Hogan:

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. (Photo courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor)

These uncertain times require bold, thoughtful leadership and I am reaching out to you and the good people of Maryland that while you continue to keep yourselves safe, you work to allow a brief return to a modicum of normalcy and, perhaps, provide some much-needed hope.

You and your administration, along with elected officials from the City of Annapolis, have been engaged with the leadership of the United States Naval Academy, considering the options for graduating and commissioning the Class of 2020. I can appreciate that concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are your primary concern and that has the Academy seriously considering an online, virtual event.

It is beyond question that the pomp, circumstance, and celebration of a traditional USNA Commissioning Week cannot be seriously considered. However, I appeal to you on both pragmatic and emotional fronts to work with Academy leadership to make possible dignified recognition of this year’s graduating class.

This is not about parades, formal balls, crowds of adoring family and friends, or dramatic flyovers. This is about recognizing young men and women who have endured the most demanding academic, moral, and physical training to claim their right to defend our country’s freedoms.

On a practical front, while the circumstances around the approach taken by the United States Air Force Academy are vastly different than those of the Naval Academy, I would ask you to consider the United States Military Academy at West Point, which recently announced plans to bring their entire graduating class together. They will adhere to strict social distancing recommendations and receive their commissions beyond the public view. If you have not already, I would ask that you talk with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom you proceeded as Vice Chair of the National Governors Association. As governor of the state most heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps he can explain why he finds that West Point’s plans do not conflict with the public good.

Further, I would ask you to consider the Naval Academy’s leadership. I’m sure you are aware of the impressive credentials of Superintendent Sean Buck, his Vice Superintendent,  and his Commandant.  Whatever the requirements for public safety, you can rest assured that they can work out the logistics to meet or exceed them.

Finally, we know that life must go on and all the cycles of life must continue. That includes life at the Naval Academy. The Class of 2024 must be inducted, and the remaining three classes must head off to mission-critical summer training. To accomplish all of that, the Midshipmen – including the Class of 2020 – must return to The Yard to collect their belongings and clear out Bancroft Hall so it can be prepared for the coming year. As mentioned, there is no doubt Academy leadership can accomplish a return to The Yard while maintaining public safety and once on The Yard, the Class of 2020 can be given proper recognition.

I would also appeal to your emotions and what this opportunity means to the Class of 2020, the Naval Academy, the City of Annapolis, the great state of Maryland, and, yes, our country. In a time of isolation, in a time of uncertainty, of loss, there is perhaps nothing we need more than hope, a sense that better days are yet to come. Watching the cadets of the Air Force Academy gathered one last time gave us a glimpse of that hope. West Point will provide the same in June. With the help of your administration, the Naval Academy can do the same.

While maintaining social distancing protocols, the United States Air Force Academy commissioned 967 officers on 18 April 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)

Again, this is not about a celebration for the Class of 2020. You would be hard-pressed to find a Midshipman who wants to be applauded and praised because, to a person, they are far too humble for that. Instead, this is about gathering together as a group one last time. They arrived at the gates of the Academy as more than 1,000 individuals. Over the course of four years more intense than most of us could ever imagine, they have melded into a single unit. They have earned the right to leave The Yard not again as individuals, but as the new creation they have become, beyond a family. They are part of the legacy.

The last time the majority of the Class of 2020 was gathered together on The Yard, it was to say goodbye to one of their own, the funeral for David Forney. While they will never forget that painful time, it should not be their final memory. They deserve better than that. The Academy deserves better than that. Our country deserves better than that.

Maryland and the Naval Academy have been more than partners for decades and it is times just such as these that true partnerships are tested.

Governor Hogan, I appeal to your leadership. I appeal to your mind. I appeal to your heart. Do not balk at this challenge. Embrace it and show that our future is beyond this pandemic.

Governor Hogan, give the Class of 2020 the respectful recognition they have earned and deserve. And give all of us hope.

Very respectfully,

Karl Smith

You can write directly to Governor Hogan through the state’s website. Just click here.

Now is a good time to join me in the Prayer for the USNA Class of 2020. You can check out the video here.

While we won’t be able to celebrate The Herndon Climb, we can still celebrate the Class of 2023 with this playlist.

8 thoughts on “An open letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and the people of Maryland

  1. Thank you for this, for being their voice! Hopefully theyll do better for the class of 2020. They feel forgotten. It’s so sad, basically dont let the door hit you on the way out. It’s a huge disappointment
    Thank you again


  2. Thank you. I am a Class of 2021 midmom! I love your writing!!!

    I wrote this earlier to the governor and somehow it changed my type and added caps and wierd punctuation…but I think the message still came across!

    Dear Governor Hogan,

    I have been so impressed with your leadership thus far since taking office. Even more so with the outbreak and current pandemic of Covid 19. Your concern for the welfare and safety of Maryland citizens is very evident. And admirable. I am a former resident of both Maryland and Pennsylvania and now currently California where we instituted and still have very tough covid 19 guidelines thanks to our governor as well, and I am so grateful as we have flattened the curve very early.

    However, I am writing to you to appeal to your impressive leadership in reconsidering allowing the USNA Class of 2020 to have a very simple graduation and commissioning ceremony without the public, of course. They all have to return to Bancroft to clear out their belongings, so they will be coming into Annapolis And the Yard either way.

    My son will graduate next year with the class of 2021 and he is so fortunate to be able to see his classmates again at some point. But for the Class of 2020, they will lose this very significant opportunity as a class, and as a brotherhood/sisterhood.

    I compel you to find a way, working in concert with the USNA Superintendent and Commandant, to provide an in-person graduation and commissioning for the USNA Class of 2020, and thank you sincerely for your reconsideration.

    Very Respectfully,

    Mary Anderson
    Navy spouse and USNA mom


  3. Karl,
    Thank you so much for this heartfelt and powerful letter! My heart breaks for the class of 2020 and their families. I pray the Governor heeds your words and finds a solution to recognize USNA 2020 in a way they so deserve. Regardless of the outcome, 2020 will go on to amazing accomplishments.

    God Bless,
    Julie Haller, fellow USNA parent.


    1. Julie – thank you for the kind words. Praying, too, that Governor Hogan and Superintendent Buck can, true to the Class of 2020 motto, “find a way or make one.”


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