A polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near either of a planet's geographical poles and they are weaker during summer and strongest during winter. If I'd known what a polar vortex was before this week, I would have prayed for one the last three summers here in Fork Union. On Monday morning, as the sun rose over the campus, I could feel its presence.
It wasn't the cold brought in by this weather pattern that was so noticeable, but instead, a "calm before the storm." This is one of my favorite weather conditions...this calm just before the weather changes. I met with the cadets, faculty, and staff at 0745 on Monday morning, arriving about the same time as the vortex.
I greeted them by saying:
"I trust everyone had a terrific Christmas break, and everyone is looking forward to what 2014 will bring. There are 137 days from now until the end of school and graduation, only the months of January, February, March, April, and May.
We look forward to taking this time to develop the cadet leadership for next year, and I encourage those desiring leadership positions to make sure we know of your interest.
I reminded everyone of existing rules, regulations, policies, and reinforced our core values of respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline...encouraging everyone to let these values guide their every action, and ended by saying:
"Those outside Fork Union Military Academy know that our cadets are in a strict environment...and that this is not an ordinary high school or boarding school. Our standards are higher...our graduates are better...they sacrifice a little today for a brighter future.
Fork Union Military Academy has a reputation for being the best school like ours in the United States. Yes, we still have work to do, but we are the best all boy's college preparatory, Christian, military school in the country.
Every two to three years we have a few cadets who begin to believe that they are bigger, better, and smarter than the school...none of us, is more important than the reputation and legacy of Fork Union.
Sometimes leadership positions bring out the worst in people, which is unfortunate because leadership should bring out the best. I would like to work on that."
All year I've been impressed by the way the Corps of Cadets has actively listened during Chapel Services and these "All Hands" meetings. Before the day was over, the temperature had dropped from the 50's to about 15 degrees. We modified a few formations, and temporarily changed some routines to ensure everyone would be safe. Thankfully we made it through a very cold week without any casualties to buildings or people.
We welcomed a few new cadets on Monday, and my suspicion is that Regina, our barber, was busy, because there was much less hair on the heads of the cadets when I spoke with them on Tuesday morning at the first Chapel Service of the year. My remarks from that service are posted here if you are interested in reading them. I made it a sort of "Coast Guard Day in January," keeping the message a little lighter, but wanted to continue the tradition of the FUMA President providing this first Chapel Service of the new year.
By Wednesday, despite the cold and wind, cadet morale seemed high. The food was hot and delicious, sports teams were preparing again for competition, and we began making plans for a ring ceremony before Winter Break. Winter Break? Didn't we just have a long break? But I remember from the last two years just how nice it is to have a 3 day weekend at the end of January to get everyone through to Spring.
Today's Chapel Service centered on hypocrisy. Chaplain Benson was filled with "fire and brimstone," clearly passionate about this topic and the words from Matthew 23: 1-23. Before the message, Cadet Ro included in his prayer for us to pray for those who may be homesick. I appreciated this reminder...about how far away from home many of our students are, and a reminder of adolescence.
Today's lesson while for everyone, spoke primarily to those of us in positions of leadership. We must do what we tell others to do...and it reminded me of an expression I've used often which is:
"I can't be sure he is listening to what I say, but I am certain he is watching what I do."
Leaders cannot say one thing and do another, and if you are going to enforce a rule or regulation, you must follow that same rule yourselves.
It is good to be back in full swing...hard to believe we are already making preparations for graduation, and on Friday of next week, only the last half of the school year will remain.