Recently, I came across a fascinating and well-balanced article from the Harvard Gazette that concerned their ROTC program. As a now retired professor of Humanities, I was intrigued by its title: The Military-Humanities Connection. My intrigue was not so much piqued by the humanities connection, as I already knew the importance of humanities in shaping the all important skill of critical thinking, but by the fact that the article was about ROTC students at Harvard, of all places. I was quickly reminded that the humanities are as important in today’s military as the technological skills.
As a Vietnam veteran and retired professor, I have seen the ROTC go through some tough times. Things have changed since the early 1970s when ROTC programs on college campuses across the nation were being dropped like hot potatoes in protest of the Vietnam War. Recently ROTC programs have, once again, become part of college life, offering students valuable opportunities for learning and service.
As Lt. Col. Peter Godfrin, the commander of the Harvard ROTC program says:
“We need to be able to communicate and negotiate with folks; we need folks at the highest levels who can think through complex problems because…unfortunately, warfare is a human endeavor.”
As a professor I had many ROTC students in classes I taught over the years. They tended to be more focused, more optimistic, more dedicated to the work before them than most. There are reasons for this, of course. For the most part, these students had an already well-developed sense of citizenship. They came to class with a solid work ethic that was reinforced by their ROTC leadership, their military studies programs, their up at “0-dark-thirty” physical training routines, and their own sense of wanting to serve.
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Students enter ROTC programs for many reasons. Some do so because it will help make college affordable, others to challenge themselves, and still others to demonstrate their love of country. However, all are driven to serve and they see being part of the national defense as an attractive way to fulfill this drive.
Harvard ROTC student, Charlotte “Charley” Fallette, class of 2016, says, “We have a drive and we have a passion and we’re working toward something that we feel is very, very important, and jobs that we’re excited by, so it’s pretty special.”
These ROTC students bring a perspective of service and a mature commitment to both their studies and to the development of their character. Unlike most of their peers, they must conduct themselves, at all times, in ways that honor the uniforms they wear. They also model to their peers a willingness to be a part of a cause larger than themselves. This is often very new thinking to most of their fellow students.
These ROTC students are future leaders in training. They are the officers of the future who will, at age 22, be placed in leadership responsibilities commanding men and women from every different background in America, while their peers, for the most part, will be in entry level jobs in their given professions for a long time before they will be asked to take over leadership positions. These young men and women give their families and the nation real reasons to be proud and hopeful for the future.
who have chosen to participate in ROTC programs on college campuses around the country. We salute all our college students who are currently in, or who have experienced the benefits of college ROTC programs.