Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Those to Whom Much is Given

Wrongs can be put right. In a free society, it can just take time - but more often than not - you get there.

In one of the more shameful events of a shameful time in our nation's history, it a fit of self-serving narcissistic pique, those who were receiving the greatest advantage in life from the greatest nation on our little planet decided that the hard work of ensuring liberty was for the little people;
As a young chemistry professor at Yale University in 1969, Gary Haller voted to boot the U.S. military's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program off the Ivy League school's Connecticut campus.

Like many American schools at the time it was gripped by protests against the Vietnam War. Yale's faculty considered the presence of ROTC, which trains future officers and provides college scholarships, to be tacit support for an unpopular war.

"People were just so outraged," Haller said.
The actual reasons and motivations were a bit more nuanced than that, but we should let the past be the past. Let them comfort themselves with their little fairy tales - they and we know their reasons.

Regardless, that has changed - and for the better for us all;
Four decades on, however, he views the ROTC through a different lens. “We want to produce students who are leaders in every segment of our society," said Haller, now an emeritus professor who led a faculty committee that helped pave the way for the ROTC's return to Yale. "Whether you like the military or not, it is a big segment of our society.”

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited his alma mater for the first commissioning since the Vietnam era of cadets and midshipmen who participated in the program for all four years of college.

The ceremony is the latest evidence of a sea change in the attitude of elite universities, which shunned the military for four decades in part because of its controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy for gay personnel. Now they have come to realize that their graduates should have as much influence on a major instrument of American power as they do in the halls of the White House or the trading desks of Wall Street.

The return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses is a return to the norm that prevailed for more than 200 years, when graduates routinely marched, flew and sailed from campus to combat.

"I really do believe deeply that ROTC needs to be back on campuses like ours so that our students can have a truly hands-on, active role in shaping the next military," said Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, whose father served in the Air Force.

John Lewis Gaddis, a prominent Yale historian who supported ROTC's return, said he was always struck by how few students had ever met anybody in the military.

Carter referenced that in his speech on Monday, noting that the ROTC graduates had "helped bridge a divide that has persisted for too long." "For some of your classmates, you're the first member of the military they've ever gotten to know."
For the record, the DADT excuse was just a holding action from the last holdout red diaper brigade, which we all knew at the time.

A small but correct gesture is to get ROTC back, even in small numbers. For those who wrongly like to badmouth this generation of young men and women, they are showing by their actions how they feel about serving their nation compared to those who came before. Keep that note handy.

Having more people from Yale and other top-tier schools serve will help bring the full perspective to citizenship to the Ivy League that needs to be there. For better or worse, those schools produce a high percentage of our nation's leaders, this will help everyone.

As a Southerner, my worldview towards service was skewed by the Old South and Tidewater sub-cultures I was raised in; military service in the upper-middle and even upper classes was not that unusual. In many families, it is almost mandatory. Once in the Fleet, it became apparent to me that other parts of the nation did not share the same feeling of obligation or interest in serving.

Spend some years in the military and you see that wardrooms are not balanced. Those of us who came from well to do families were almost all from Old South, Tidewater, and a higher than expected percentage of upper-Midwest families. Most were from land grant university type schools, with a few Washington & Lee, VMI, Citadel, William & Mary, Sewanee etc types thrown in for flavor. Part of that is culture, part of that is opportunity. When you included the not insignificant percentage of, "the military is a family business" officers - an upper-class Ivy League Yankee was along the lines of a unicorn sighting. 

We now have one less excuse for the part of society to whom much is given, to do what is expected. This in a small measure will produce a more well-rounded military, and a better perspective of military service among what, sadly, we can call the ruling class.

Back in July 2004 (yes, I have been blogg'n that long), I summarized this issue in a more personal way;
...a big advantage to getting more of the elite to VOLUNTEER to serve their country for a few years so I will have more people at work that understand Lacrosse and field hockey.
A little confession here; sorry Shipmates, I faked interest in NASCAR when the topic came up. One has to do what one must do to survive.

Enough of me. Bravo Zulu to the new Ensigns and Second Lieutenants.  You, your country, and your peers will all be better for your service.

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