Yesterday, somebody sent me a link to the formal ritual whereby the freshmen/women (called “Rats”) of the Virginia Military Institute are pried loose from their parents’ loving arms and deposited with a third class corporal to be whipped into hard men and women during four demanding years at the nation’s oldest state military school.
At a school founded in 1839 which has provided warriors to fight our wars since then, ritual is an important element in the process — the unique process that turns an unshapen lump of clay into a hardened vessel in four years.
Sixty-one percent of the Rats will study math, science, or engineering and they are from 34 states and 4 foreign countries. They have an average GPA of 3.7.
It is a touching ritual. If you are bored today, watch it. Do you know of any other school that takes its students in in such a fashion?
The man speaking, the Superintendent of VMI, General JH Binford Peay III, VMI ’62, was the commander of the 101st Abn Div in the First Gulf War which conducted the longest airmobile movement in combat of any division in the history of warfare, setting up shop behind the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait. He was also the Centcom Commander as a 4-star General. [He has whipped VMI into the best shape it has ever been in since 1839. Personal view. He is also an inspiring leader and a good guy.]
One of the speakers, the Commandant, a warrior with almost three decades of military service made the distinction between failing and quitting. It is an important distinction.