The Citadel is silent at Christmas.
Gone are the cadets and the Christmas lights giving color to the barracks. Summerall Chapel, recently so resplendent with red poinsettias and pine garlands, is now vacant except for an occasional wedding. Our only visitors are friends of campus residents or busloads of tourists disappointed at the emptiness they see. We who are left behind are focusing on our families and our faith just as you are doing now.
The Christmas break brings a welcomed period of reflection and assessment. As I look back over the fall semester, I feel reassured by recent events that, while unsettling at times, bear the trademark of good people trying to do the right thing even when their actions create disagreements.
As many of you know, the Corps leadership has approached the board of visitors with concerns about recent decisions on such matters as procedures and schedules. This tension between those who govern and those who are governed is a natural occurrence. I believe the resulting discussions will create a better understanding of the responsibilities of the college's governing body and the impact of policy decisions on cadets' lives.
I can assure you that the leadership of the Corps of Cadets still displays the idealism and passion for perfection that comes from living in this crucible of leadership and honor: a place with absolute standards and simple answers - yes, sir; no, sir; no excuse, sir. And I can also assure you that our board of visitors works tirelessly to promote the interests of The Citadel and its simple ideals in an extremely complex world.
Throughout history there has only been one perfect person whose birth Christians all over the world celebrate during this season. He set the example for us to follow. Yet try as we might to overcome our shortcomings, perfection will be elusive because we are only human. Our own imperfections should give us humility and pause when judging the shortcomings of others.
We should remember that good people who try to do their best merit our respect even when we do not agree with them. And we should all look within ourselves to see how well we measure up against the absolute standards of ethics and honor that The Citadel fosters.
I am grateful for understanding that comes from periods of tension and for this quiet time of assessment. We learn and grow much more from our challenges than we do when everything goes as expected.
I look forward to the return of the Corps in January, bringing back the bustle and activity to campus. And I am confident that 2003 will usher in a deepened sense of commitment to the ideals of The Citadel and the determination to translate those ideals into everyday life.