16 July 2007

Kappa Alpha

This past Friday evening, I had the distinct honor of speaking to some of the finest young men in America. Eighty-one young gentlemen came from all over the United States to participate in Kappa Alpha’s Emerging Leadership Conference at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. This was a private event and we gathered in historic Lee Chapel for my lecture which was titled: The Key to Leadership—Triumph Over Self. I based my talk on Robert E. Lee’s decisions to follow duty and cast his lot with two “lost causes”: The Confederacy in 1861 and Washington College in 1865. The two decisions—though yielding vastly different results—were the result of the same motivating factors: Lee’s sense of duty and triumph over self. Earlier this year I was invited, along with several other authors including Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., to submit articles for KA’s journal with the subject matter focusing on leadership. My lecture Friday evening was based upon the piece I wrote for the journal. For those of you who are interested, you can read the article in the pdf download of the Spring 2007 issue here (journal pages 24-25) or in simple text here.

“KA traces its beginning to 1865, when four men at Washington College, in Lexington, Virginia, decided to bind their friendship by a ‘mutual pledge of faith and loyalty.’ Our founders sought to create an organization rooted in the highest ideals of the time. Those same traits of honor, chivalry, and gentility have remained timeless throughout the ages and are the core of Kappa Alpha.”

Kappa Alpha has a fascinating history, especially for CW buffs and admirers of Lee. Two of the founding fathers, James Wood & William Scott, fought for the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee, whose ideals of chivalry and gentlemanly conduct inspired the founders, was designated the "Spiritual Founder" of the Order by John Temple Graves at the 1923 Convention. The mission of KA is a simple one:

“Kappa Alpha Order seeks to create a lifetime experience which centers on reverence to God, duty, honor, character and gentlemanly conduct as inspired by Robert E. Lee, our spiritual founder.”

Their Order is based on the ancient tradition of chivalry and KA continually emphasizes the importance of this concept; so wanting in American society today. A number of distinguished Americans have been members including:

General George C. Marshall

J. Edgar Hoover

Admiral Richard E. Byrd

General George S. Patton

Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr.

Ben Crenshaw

Sonny Jergensen

Pat Boone

Randolph Scott . . . just to name a few.

The Kappa Alpha Order Administrative Office is located at Mulberry Hill, in Lexington, Virginia. Mulberry Hill is located on the western edge of Lexington, Virginia, is one of the town’s chief historic houses and forms a scenic backdrop for the Lexington Historic District and Washington and Lee University. Mulberry Hill is where Robert E. Lee spent his first night in Lexington, after arriving to assume the presidency of Washington College. Mulberry Hill is a Virginia Historic Landmark, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

These young men came to this event for a reason—to sharpen their leadership skills and I was impressed with their demeanor and attentiveness during the lecture. I had the privilege of chatting with several of them after my talk. What a delight to meet young men of this caliber. This was not your typical Fraternity event. The Academy’s alcohol policy is as follows:

“The Academy will provide an alcohol and drug free educational program and environment. All participants, regardless of age, are not to bring or purchase alcohol during the program. If this rule is broken, the participant will be sent home and charged a registration fee.”

After the event, we all gathered in front of Lee Chapel for the “Convivium Toast to Robert E. Lee.” I was invited to participate and offered a glass with some clear liquid in it. Not knowing about the alcohol policy, and assuming the liquid was vodka, gin, or some other adult beverage I, being a teetotaler, declined. One of my hosts chuckled and said, “It’s just water.” (Of course! How else would you toast Robert E. Lee?!) Somewhat embarrassed, I accepted the invitation and the toast was given:

“Knights, Gentlemen, Brethren:

Lift high your glasses here tonight, and, in the liquid spotless as his fame, let us pledge for all time the spiritual founder of Kappa Alpha Order—Robert Edward Lee of old Virginia! (Everyone): Robert E. Lee!”

An experience and privilege I will not soon forget! The Year of Lee continues.


David Corbett said...

Dear Sir ,
General Lee was known to have a glass of wine now and again . Research ; then write . all for the old flag,
David Corbett

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Dear Mr. Corbett:

I'm not quite sure I understand your comment. I never said Lee didn't occasionally drink a glass of wine with a meal, but he most definitely did not approve of "strong drink" especially among the young:

"I cannot too earnestly exhort you to practice habitual temperance, so that you may form the habit in youth, and not feel the inclination, on temptation, to depart from it in manhood." ~ Lee to the 'Friends of Temperance' in Lexington, VA, 9 December 1869.

That was Lee's general view on alcoholic beverages. That is what my research reveals.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Congrats Richard. Another wonderful opportunity for young minds to learn from the legacies of our great Christian forefathers. If we could only use these examples in our school the world would be a much better place. Well done friend.

Jamie Ohler said...

Mr. Williams thank you for your blog.
This is my first time at your blog and I love your writing. I felt your passion/heart.
"Triumph Over Self"
That seems to be my theme over the past few days.
As I continue forward with my endeavors, I will keep your posts in clear view.

Be Positive,
Jamie Ohler

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Jamie - visit often!