• Capt. Phillips to speak at maritime academy graduation
     | March 26,2014

    BOURNE, Mass. — Vermonter Richard Phillips, whose real-life ordeal as a hostage of Somali pirates was the subject of the movie “Captain Phillips,” has been selected to address graduates at Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s commencement.

    Phillips, a 1979 graduate of the college, will also receive an honorary degree at the June 21 ceremony.

    He was captain of the commercial cargo vessel Maersk Alabama when it was captured by four pirates in the Indian Ocean in April 2009. He was held in a lifeboat for five days before Navy SEAL snipers killed three pirates and freed him. A fourth was captured.

    School president Rear Adm. Richard Gurnon also invited actor Tom Hanks — who portrayed Phillips in the movie — to the graduation. But he cannot make it because of scheduling conflicts.

    The attention the Oscar-nominated movie received was certainly part of the attraction of inviting Phillips, Gurnon said.

    “I’ve met him a bunch of times. He’s low-key, but he’s genuine,” Gurnon said.

    “I was most impressed by his quiet confidence. He has genuine appeal to young people, and we’re all looking forward to what he might say.”

    Phillips will give what’s called the “charge” to cadets, which Gurnon says is “typically much more intimate and much more personal” than most commencement addresses.

    U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was selected to give the keynote graduation speech because of his service on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

    Senior and student body president Brendan Burke said cadets can relate to Phillips.

    “This academy teaches great leadership and great practices in the maritime industry, and seeing how he acted was a true example of how hard work truly does pay off,” Burke said.

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