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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Muster speaker aims for unity, life celebration

 
 

Muster speakers serve to set the tone of the event and unite attending Aggies. This year’s speaker, Bill Youngkin, Class of 1969, was selected after months of deliberation by the Muster committee.
Youngkin was, and still is, heavily involved with the university. After serving as head yell leader and a Ross Volunteer during his time at A&M, Youngkin went on to serve in Vietnam. After returning, Youngkin continued to serve the university as president of both The Association of Former Students and The Former Yell Leaders Association. He serves as the principal of Youngkin & Associates, a law firm in Bryan, Texas.
Samantha Balser, Muster speaker coordinator and senior interdisciplinary studies major, said the committee selected Youngkin because of his involvement with Texas A&M before and after graduation. Decades after graduating, Youngkin continues to meet with members of his graduating class every Friday.
“He continues to give back in so many different capacities,” Balser said. “He lives out the Aggie core values and really cares for his Aggie family. He just has such a great passion for this university, and it is so visible.”
As for Youngkin, he said while the task of being speaker this year is daunting, he wants to honor the occasion.
“I’ve spoken in Musters in a lot of places but this one is obviously the biggest and most important,” Youngkin said. “You truly want to do the best job possible and hope what you do is honoring your university, your Aggie family and your personal family. It makes me nervous just thinking about that. That’s what it means to me, and what an honor it is.”
The process of choosing a speaker begins in the spring, a year before Muster. The Muster committee opens nominations for the speaker and reaches out for contacts from The Association. Through the nomination process, the committee compiles a growing database of potential speakers.
During the fall, the list of potential speakers is narrowed down according to characteristics the committee decides on. These can be anything from prior speaking experience and involvement with A&M after graduation to someone living out the A&M core values. Stephanie Ibarra, committee database coordinator and senior psychology major, said the characteristics the committee looks for change from year to year depending on what the committee wants to emphasize.
Balser said this year the committee wanted to build on the celebratory and camaraderie aspects of the tradition.
“This year, we wanted to enhance the celebration aspect of Muster,” Balser said. “Muster is traditionally viewed as traditional and somber, which it is. The ceremony is reverent, but we also wanted to incorporate that message of a celebration of life.”
Balser said Youngkin’s storytelling ability will allow him to connect with the thousands of people attending the on-campus Muster this year.
“He is such an incredible storyteller,” Balser said. “He is always so excited to share those stories with everybody he encounters. He talks about his time at A&M and how closely he holds those times and those friends near to his heart. He really has a knack for bringing people together and bringing joy to the room through his stories.”
Balser said Youngkin’s ability to connect with his audience is crucial in a Muster speaker and said the committee makes sure to select a speaker who will be able to impact a diverse audience. As Muster serves three distinct groups of people – families of fallen Aggies, former and current students and members of the 50-year class reunion, Balser said the task of juggling the different experiences of the audience falls to the speaker.
Balser said a good speaker allows Aggies in attendance to walk away secure in the fact their Aggie family will always be there to support them.
“What I hope is true is that when every Aggie walks out of that room, they feel united,” Balser said. “They feel the power of the family that stands behind them at A&M, and they know that support is true and that that life is valued and honored and respected.”

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