Author’s Note: I wrote this a while back during my 1st Class year at the Institute. I still believe it’s relevant as I’ve seen no change in the status quo. 7/17/10
My Alma Mater is once again in the news. Unfortunately, it’s nothing but a fluff piece riding a wave of federal investigations and controversy, but beggars can’t always be choosers. The article was written by a reporter who I can only surmise had never set foot on Post before and was obviously not familiar with any of our traditions. He was led around by a handful of cadets who kept him away from the general Keydet population, explaining the alien customs and activities that we engage in on a daily basis. My favorite quote is from our current Commandant:
“Outsiders ask, ‘Why don’t you just let them walk down and get breakfast?’ ” said Col. Thomas Trumps, the chiseled commandant who leads the daily military regimen. “We could. But then it wouldn’t be VMI.”
It encapsulates the very nature of the of the biggest challenge we have when dealing with the outside world; our traditions don’t make sense to the outside world which is focused on the role and benefit of the individual. Our only way to bridge the divide is through active participation in the media. I just don’t think we do a good enough job of it. We wall the media out, hoping that they go away. We give them handlers who are screened beforehand to fit a certain image of VMI. This ultimately does a disservice to the Institute. The best piece of prose I have ever read that captured the spirit of VMI was the book The Institute, and it does so because of the unfettered access that the authors were given to the entire Corps. There are a lot of good stories to tell within Barracks, a lot of regular, buck privates who would do the Mother I proud with what their interviews. Allowing reporters to be immersed within the culture would allow them to understand it as best they short of actually earning a VMI diploma. A better understanding leads to a better article.