Values of Tomorrow’s Leaders
Corps Values is instilled is the graduating class of the Citadel from the first day they stepped on the campus as knobs. They swore to the code “A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” It certainly did not take the full four years at The Citadel but, their whole world and thinking has been shaped around those principles. Well guess what? Keep reading Robert Freer’s article to see why this 2009 class of Cadets just proves that The Citadel remains, as it has been for generations, a national leader in Values Education.
By Robert E. Freer, Jr., President of The Free Enterprise Foundation
“All my life, both as a soldier and as an educator, I have been engaged in a search for a mysterious intangible. All nations seek it constantly because it is the key to greatness, sometimes to survival. That intangible is the electric and elusive quality known as leadership.” Gen. Mark Clark
It is the time of year for me to pay homage to the young men and women we who teach at The Citadel are releasing to the world. Their study here is done, their eagerness unbounded to fashion that happiness our Declaration of Independence proclaims their inalienable right to pursue. Consistent with the times, Career Services confirms that more of our graduates are electing military options and federal employment. Our country is truly blessed to have such principled and talented new employees.
For those in the class who are joining the business world, it is no surprise that there is less interest in finance/investment-related options and more interest in logistics and operations management. I can tell you also that while they are a practical bunch, they are as patriotic and idealistic as any class that came before them. In the wake of Katrina, as knobs they trooped in large numbers to volunteer in The Gulf, working countless hours to provide the muscle and dedication to help those devastated by nature’s lash. Back here in Charleston and on leave while home, they have continued a high level of volunteer action.
They also have been rigorously educated in what it means to “Wear the Ring” and amongst their number are more than a few of the gems General Clark sought in his lifetime quest for leaders. As former president of The Citadel, General Clark would be proud of their understanding that it is the discipline of classroom and playing field combined with the great heart of a warrior that makes for leadership in a time of challenge.
The Citadel remains, as it has been for generations, a national leader in Values Education. This class, like those who came before, understands that doing sums, making the sale, recording and mapping performance is not enough. It may make for a living, but it is what they give to others in human understanding and service beyond self that makes a life.
As the Citadel’s former president John Grinalds said in the introduction to my book Citadel Values, “The Citadel’s mission is “achieving excellence in the education of principled leaders.” At the center of the world to which the class of 2009 was first introduced as knobs, is adherence to the Cadet Code to which they swear: “A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” After four years, their whole world is shaped around those principles. Their reality is formed of rigid honesty, loyalty to their fellow classmates, and respect both for their classmates and all with whom they deal in their 24 hour closely scheduled day.
As one of my students said in his final paper, “Virtuous action comes down to one thing: rational control of the irrational part of the mind.” Excellence is learned behavior applied consistently. The behavior that will best serve the cadet both before and after graduation is adherence to Corps Values. Each member of the class has come to accept that he or she is part of something far bigger than themselves. Alone they are lost, joined to a community of values; they can accomplish miracles together.
While they are probably unconscious of just when that happened, at some point in their Citadel career, “ME” became subservient to “WE” as the center of their universe. Somewhere along their educational path, their adherence to Corps values has also become something more fundamental than loyalty to the Corps. It has become an understanding of those essential values that bind each of us to this country we love and for which we would sacrifice our lives if necessary.
John Allison, chairman of BBandT Corporation, in his speech to the Third Annual Awards luncheon of The Free Enterprise Foundation here at The Citadel in mid April, noted, “Values are practical habits that enable us as individuals to live, be successful and achieve happiness…. Emotions are not a means of knowledge….Pride is the psychological reward we earn from living our values, i.e. from being just, honest, having integrity, being an independent thinker, etc.”
The Corps embraces that reality and has become a leader in its deployment. Its graduates become the epicenter of the ripple that spreads across this great land and through the lives they live laps against all they come in contact. This class, the class of 2009, is the latest in the one hundred forty plus classes that have come before it. Like its predecessors, it has a high percentage of leaders eager to serve the society that is so in need of the values they personify. Those values are our hope for salvation and the only basis for wise leadership. This year, more than most, as the Citadel becomes but an image in their car mirrors, our prayers go with them. We wish them Godspeed on their journey and await their return.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert E. Freer, Jr. All rights reserved
About the author: Robert E. Freer, Jr. is President of The Free Enterprise Foundation. He is a Visiting Professor, at The Citadel and elected in 2005 to be their first John S. Grinalds Leader in Residence. A regular contributor to the Mercury, He can be reached by E-mail at The Citadel . Copies of his earlier columns can be found The Free Enterprise Foundation.
This article may be republished unedited in its entirety provided that copyright statement and author by-lines are kept intact and unchanged and hyperlinks and/or URLs provided by the author remain active.
If you’d like to contribute an article to this collection please e-mail it for review .
Go to 2009 Business Ethics Articles from Values of Tomorrow’s Leaders