He kept the tone of his remarks light, but he had a serious message for the 400 undergraduate and graduate students who received diplomas.
"You have the opportunity of choice," he said. "That gives me confidence in the future. I'm proud of all of you."
Franks said that on Sept. 11, 2001, America embarked on a journey into the future.
"You will be the leaders as we move into the future. The world has seen the commitment that citizens of this country have to liberty," he said. "You will make the choices that will provide your children and grandchildren with the opportunities with which we have been blessed."
Referring to the field near Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Franks said, "there's a field not too far from here where a man gave up his life and said, 'Let's roll.' There's lots of rolling left to do. It's in your hands. The peace and stability of the future rests with your choices."
University President Anthony Ceddia said that Franks has seen "the best and worst of our world" in a 36-year military career that includes three Purple Heart and three Bronze Star awards, among others. Ceddia conferred upon Franks an honorary doctor of public service degree.
Franks, who in 2000 was promoted to four-star general and was responsible for U.S. forces in 25 countries, retired in August.
He said he has found the transition to civilian life easy.
"I've already learned that if you want an auto to move, you have to get in the front seat," he said. "And you can jet anywhere you want to go. The difference is you have to pay for it."
He said that things have changed a great deal in the 18 years since he received his master of public administration degree from Shippensburg.
"I had just bought my first computer," he said. "It was the size of a minivan, and it had the power of the alarm clock that woke you up this morning."
Franks said a reporter once asked him, "Is the prize we seek worth the price we're having to pay?"
"I said, 'It is worth any number of lives, because the prize we seek is a way of life for ourselves and our children and their children.' Freedom and liberty are worth any price," he said. "Hope is not a plan. We all hope for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow. Hope of itself is not a method. We must chart that course and the future of this country.
"There are choices to be made. America is in good hands - yours."