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Citadel News Service
16 Oct 1997

General John S. Grinalds: Inaugural Address

Thank you, Colonel Mood, for that kind introduction and, above all, your official affirmation of my responsibility to lead The Citadel.

I must say that all of the speeches that have been delivered thus far this morning have fallen into two categories: one being what a wonderful place The Citadel is -- which, in fact, it is -- the other, the seriousness of the challenge but what a wonderful job I'm going to do. I agree with the first one. About the second one, I have some trepidation. I know myself better than you do, and I know that although the spirit's strong, the flesh is sometimes weak. I'm going to need the help of each one of you as we face the next twenty-five years. Yes, I hope to be here that long. In the opening weeks of my interest in the position of president of The Citadel, I received calls from several people who described the situation as desperate here at the college -- I think inaccurately. After the warnings of what awaited me, I had the feeling I was about to jump into a hot LZ. Well, I did jump into a hot LZ, but I found a group already here, and they're seen dressed in grey and white, sitting right up here, who had the hot LZ secured and in good shape. And I can't tell you how proud I am, ladies and gentlemen of the Corps of Cadets, to now officially be your eighteenth president. Very little does our public know about the hard work and high standards that you maintain daily. And I think all of us who are assembled here this morning, want to give honor to that fact. Please stand up, Corps of Cadets, so we can give you a round of applause.

I want to thank all of you for being here with us today: colleagues representing colleges and universities across America; friends and officials of the college who are gathered here this afternoon with me on the stage, especially our Board of Visitors which has been totally supportive of me, both before and after I have arrived here; my family members who have gathered here; friends from childhood days in Georgia, my college years at West Point, and professional colleagues from around the world. I am particularly pleased this morning that representatives of Woodberry Forest School are here, in particular Thomas Hall, the senior prefect of the school, the head boy, so to speak. He along with faculty, staff, present and past parents of Woodberry students, trustees Billy and Jannie Armfield and Lee Robinson, so many others who have come to stand with us as they have over the past six years. And I'm also particularly pleased that my friend and colleague, Major General Josiah Bunting, the superintendent of VMI, and his wife, Dianna, are here today representing the Institute. We share a common bond.

Thank you, General Neal, for your inspiring address. The Marine Corps' challenge is indeed The Citadel's challenge. Without doubt it is a truism that our values guide all we do. The Marine Corps, as always, sets a great standard for all of us in developing those values and making them part of our lives.

Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Peeler, Mayor Riley, Mr. Walker, Cadet Strand, Miss Lynch, and Dr. Barrett for your words of welcome. You set high expectations for me and I pledge to you today to do all in my power to be worthy of your trust.

As we stand here on the threshold of a new beginning, it makes sense to ask, "What do we hope to accomplish during our tenure at The Citadel?" I say "we" because I'm including Norwood. Some of you know that I met her when I was thirteen. Most of you don't know that I proposed to her when I was fourteen. It took me nine years to get past her mother. But eventually I won her hand. And she has been in a very real way a part of all I've done for thirty-five years. I have never made a major decision, I have never embarked on a major venture, without her counsel and support.

If I had to use one word to describe the goal that we are going to pursue at The Citadel it is leadership: leadership which is educated, which is responsible, which is principled.

I say educated because we have a superb faculty here at The Citadel. We can expect that faculty to continue to sharpen the minds of our students, so that they can think critically about the major issues of life, leading them to a better understanding of the human condition. This is the essential characteristic of enlightened leadership. I'd like to do something right now which probably isn't done at most investitures. I must say that as a people we seldom acknowledge the critical role these scholars and teachers of the faculty play in the lives of our students. I know from experience that usually it's an earnest comment at reunion twenty years after one's graduation that you say something to your old teacher. In fact, most plaudits that come to faculty members come at their funerals when they can no longer hear them, so I am going to embarrass all of our faculty today by asking them to rise so that all of us assembled can acknowledge what they have done to spark the intellects of those who have passed through The Citadel. Ladies and gentleman of the faculty, please rise, so that we can acknowledge you. . . . Thank you.

I also hope for responsible leadership among our graduates. We expect that the leadership laboratory known as the Corps of Cadets will provide a comprehensive experience that will give every graduate the opportunity to learn self-leadership, to learn how to lead others, and to learn the necessity of taking a leadership position in society.

As a fourthclassman, the cadet learns self-leadership. From academic studies to military duties, meeting the simple, but extremely demanding, requirements of a day at The Citadel develops self-discipline that leads to a commitment to the welfare of one's classmates, college mates, and, indeed, the entire institution which ultimately becomes the very foundation of selfless service.

As an upperclassman rising in rank and responsibility, the cadet learns to lead others in increasingly complex missions that require the leader to delegate authority, but stand responsible for the outcome. The axioms of leadership make for hard work. Responsibility comes before the privilege of rank, and leadership demands the leader's presence at the scene of action. Cadet life puts leaders where they should be -- in front of those they lead, at the scene of action -- rather than elsewhere indulging the privileges of rank. Self-sacrifice to the welfare of others becomes a way of life.

Finally, a cadet learns to be a leader in society. Military life is peculiar for many reasons, but one is that in the crucible of military life, particularly within the Corps of Cadets, a commitment to one another is created. This commitment is born out of mutual responsibility that will never allow a cadet to disappoint a comrade. A cadet will go a thousand miles to meet the needs of a classmate. This commitment becomes an intrinsic part of the cadet's character, whether or not he or she realizes it, and each graduate carries into the future that same zeal to care for colleagues. Such commitment is the essence of good leadership and good citizenship. It's the reason so many Citadel alumni, some of them sitting on this stage this afternoon, have risen to positions of leadership and in numbers more numerous than we would expect of a school the size of The Citadel.

I also hope for principled leadership. Leaders who have the intellectual power to understand and solve society's problems and have the leadership skills to translate their solutions into actions are of questionable value if they lack moral fiber. For that reason, the cadet Honor Code remains the cornerstone of a Citadel education. It is the mortar that holds everything together. The commitment to one another not to lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do, leads to a commitment to keep one's word, the essence of every lasting relationship in human society: leader to follower, husband to wife, parent to child, employer to employee, teacher to student, colleague to colleague. Without that faithful bond, our society would fall apart.

In summary, my goal is to enhance the integrity of life at The Citadel. We will do what we say we will do in educating our young men and women. I aim to make what we practice congruent with our mission. We are an educational institution that achieves our purpose of preparing students for positions of postgraduate leadership through a rigorous academic program and leadership development program in a purposeful military regimen, bonded together by the spirit of the Honor Code. My objective as your new president is to ensure that those who attend The Citadel receive a sound education and are experienced in the practice of positive leadership and moral behavior. Anything less demeans The Citadel.

What I hope most for the Corps of Cadets, for all of you sitting up there waiting for graduation, is that by the time you graduate, you will have acquired essentially a servant's attitude, that as you depart The Citadel, you will lead through service to others.

Late last week I was walking across Summerall Field with a reporter. As we walked, I was overwhelmed by a sense of place. The buildings of the campus surrounded me, the fourth class was out practicing drill, the lacrosse club was practicing, a couple of the companies were playing flag football, people were going to class -- all of the activities of the institution were surrounding me at that moment. As I looked to my right at Summerall Chapel, I saw the cross of Jesus Christ on top. The wind stirred the flag of the United States. I saw the flag of the state of South Carolina. I could feel the presence of Charleston around me. And this reporter asked, "Who has influenced you most in your life?" I stopped dead in my tracks as I looked at him and thought, and I realized in a moment that was the most important question anyone could ask. It is a question that relates to the whole question of education, because influence, positive influence, is what we look for in education. And as I looked at him, I began to think of several people that had most formed my attitude about the ideals I should pursue. And I must admit, although it will embarrass her terribly, and I will hear about it for the rest of my life, that the first person I thought of was my wife, Norwood. From the moment I met her when she was thirteen years old, her character drew me like a magnet. The remarkable way in which she gives herself to everyone who is around her -- her family, her children, me, her friends, and strangers -- is remarkable. Her desk is piled with paper and projects -- the ones she hasn't asked me to do -- and the reason her desk is piled with these things is that when anybody calls, she stops and meets their need. The second person I thought of -- and this will maybe surprise the family members who are here today -- was Norwood's father, Allen Johnson Dennis, a remarkable man who had the most profound wisdom of anyone I've ever met. If I ever had a problem that needed answers, I would go to Allen Dennis, and invariably he would tell me the right thing to do. For example, one evening some twenty years ago, he engaged me in a private conversation. "John," he said, "you should think seriously about education. You enjoy young people. You work well with them. You have known success and you encourage others to succeed." He said it more eloquently than that, but that was the message. And in many other areas, he was a great source of advice and support to me. I was drawn to his strong character and the virtuous way he conducted his life.

But as I searched around for examples, and there were others, but none quite as important as those two. . . I finally came to the conclusion that the greatest example that I could find of good leadership, servant leadership, is that practiced by Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of examples of his caring. He included everyone in his service. No one was ever rejected. He understood what was deep in the heart of an individual and was always faithful in his ministry to the need he saw there. He sacrificed everything, including his life, to meet the needs of those by his side and, in fact, for all mankind for all time. That's what people hope for in their leaders: care, understanding, and sacrifice. What more could we ask than the graduates of this venerable institution move into society filled with care, understanding, and the willingness to sacrifice all in their service to mankind. It is our responsibility, and I include in that all of us who care for and love this institution, and the men and women who pass through it, to live a life before our students that will motivate such a commitment.

May God help us all in this endeavor. Semper fidelis.

Achieving excellence in the education and development of principled leaders
Media Contact:
Jennifer Wallace
(843) 953-7842

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