Spring has officially arrived. The bright sunshine and a warm breeze today couldn't have been scripted any better. There was a bit of "spring fever" rumbling among the cadets at Chapel, as our Youth Minister encouraged them to read Proverbs. Proverbs could be considered a manual for the young...teaching how to "get along" and succeed in life.
Early this week the Chaplain told me about a seminar he'd attended where the speaker used the expression "why settle for good when great is available?" He knew I'd love the expression, and want to use the phrase in my blog...so he quickly and effectively integrated it into his Chapel message. He reminded everyone that great is available to all of us...so we should take advantage of every opportunity.
The message brought light to a fairly gloomy day...below freezing...ice and snow on the ground. After Chapel I asked a cadet where he spent his Spring Break. He told me he went someplace warm...and when I asked him where, he told me he'd spent the last week in Richmond, VA. It confirmed my suspicion that more than a few cadets believe Fork Union is the only place with cold, clouds, and snow.
Spring Break brought quiet to campus. Many took advantage of the time to rest and recharge for the dash to graduation. The Middle School graduates in 62 days, and the Upper School in 64 days...with much to be done between now and then...including Alumni Weekend which is the first Saturday and Sunday in May. While we are operating with only 75% of our normal Alumni Relations staff, plans are proceeding nicely, and a flyer should be in mailboxes very soon, if not already there.
Today, a posting from Facebook made its way around the faculty and staff which raised all our spirits. It was posted to one of the alumni discussion groups, and everyone here drew some inspiration from the words of a member of the Class of 1989 [edited slightly for brevity]:
"I read a lot of (what I consider) silly posts that take the stand that because the barracks have air conditioning and gargantuan sized (20-inch) flat screens and that because cadets don't have to stand at the bottom of Hatcher to sneak in a 10-minute phone call that the school is now [not as good as it once was].
First of all - I don't see how "easy" it is to be a cadet there. For today's [youth], not being able to stroll around campus with their head tilted downward while they text/tweet/snapchat on a mobile device is far greater restrictive than [waxing decks]...
...what was FUMA about for you? I ask this because I've pondered the question a lot as I've read the posts lamenting the changes. For me - what I took from FUMA really had little to do about the toughness I acquired from sleeping in a cold room with LOUD pipes [in Snead or Memorial Hall]. For me it was about a distraction-[free] environment where I could focus on what matters: school.
I wish I had participated in far more activities than I did - but the Academy certainly made them available...
Accountability: We had the rules laid out clear as day and there were repercussions if we didn't abide by them;
Leadership: It was up to me to find a way to get my platoon on board with taking pride in who we were. It was up to me to look after the kids who were struggling. It was up to me to be fair, and set an example. I did OK in some areas, failed [in others, but] I still learned a lot about leadership that I carry to this day.
Values: You can't separate FUMA from Christianity. It was imbedded in the schools mission and remains the driving force of virtually all of the school's leadership. Beyond Christianity...the value of hard work, not taking shortcuts, treating everyone with respect - these are timeless and useful.
Friendship: I feel a bond with you guys that for the most part I didn't develop with my friends from college - I think it was because we had to work together to achieve our goals.
Pride: In how I present myself and how I treat others. People draw conclusions - right or wrong - from your appearance. I keep that in mind...
Fairness: By that I mean - even on the most even playing field life isn't always fair.
...I still think [young men] who go through FUMA come away from the school with all of [those].
From what I can see about the school now, it's even better than when we were there. They reward academic achievement much more than they did when we were students (the ceremony for NHS inductees is an example), they teach leadership better (through a more rigorous OCS program - again one example)... a larger percentage of minorities and international students (the world is diverse...the school still has faculty that care a lot - and I promise you they teach at FUMA because they BELIEVE in FUMA as they could make much more money [someplace else]."
This post mirrored remarks from the Master Planning Kick-off Meeting yesterday, where past graduates (and current Trustees) told stories about people like Rosie Thomas, Jack Thompson, and Gus Lacy; one 1964 alumnus used the expression: "He showed me who I was."
The Phoneathon is in full swing this week, so I hope you've been kind (and generous) to the cadets who have been calling. It isn't easy making "cold calls" like this, but the cadets have approached it with great enthusiasm.
The school is alive once again, as cadets readjust to the "Accountability - Leadership - Values - Friendship - Pride - Fairness" described above after nine days away...
As I was leaving the Coast Guard Academy, speaking to various groups around the campus, I said that I'd always wanted to have a "quote of my own." In a world where some say "everything has already been said," I took a chance by using this:
"Every action you take today, including the words you use, impacts the future. You can't change the past, but you can shape the future through these actions and the words you choose." - RADM J. Scott Burhoe.
As we educate, develop, and inspire the next generation of young men who will lead with character, the real joy comes from the impact we know we will have on the future. We all pray that our actions and words impact each cadet in a positive way...a way that they will remember 25 years from now...50 years from now...and beyond...
We want them all to be great...even if good may be more easily available.
Go Spring! Go FUMA!