Principled Leader or Pandering Politician?

by Carmen Villani

As a Virginia Military Institute graduate and former [resident of the Honor Court, I find the remarks made by the Governor of Virginia Monday night before the Corps of Cadets appalling. I do not mention him by name intentionally because I believe that he has placed “personal gain above personal honor.”

On full display was a pandering politician, instead of a principled leader. He spoke of his “pride” and “love” for VMI,  yet his October 19, 2020, letter to the VMI Board of Visitors started with: “We write to express our deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism at the Virginia Military Institute.”

As VMI graduates, we are called upon to “defend” and “vindicate,” not “throw the Institute under the bus.”

In one context, the Governor mentioned memorizing the Rat Bible, and in another asking “who is that a statue of? When was it erected? Why is that person being honored?” The Rat Bible identified that statue.  You would think that in the four years he spent there, he would come to fully understand that it was of Stonewall Jackson and that it represented courage under fire, character, military genius, and resolve.

He also stated, “The eyes can’t see what the brain doesn’t know,” and then went on to further say, “Gone are the statues that glorify rebellion against the United States.” He used a medical analogy: “If you don’t know what a medical diagnosis is, your mind won’t identify it when you see it – even if all the symptoms are staring you right in the face.” Well the governor’s diagnosis of what Stonewall Jackson represents was wrong. If he had seen what was in his Rat Bible and listened with his ears, his “brain” would have correctly “diagnosed” that the statue represents courage, character, military genius, and resolve.

The Governor also made mention of one of our finest graduates, General George C. Marshall. He should spend some time studying what General Marshall believed true leaders should “continually” emulate — and it wasn’t diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI)-based ideology. From the book General George C. Marshall Rubrics Of Leadership, here are just a few:

  • Be a person of high integrity
  • Be courageous and determined
  • Seek responsibility
  • Be devoted to others

Further along in the speech, the Governor referenced a proverb – “A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.” While some changes are good, core values should remain the same. The values of honor, courage, and resolve should never be overshadowed by diversity, equity, and inclusion.  There is another proverb — “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Finally, to invoke God, His blessing, and praying is sheer hypocrisy. During an interview on WTOP radio in January of 2019, the Governor spoke of keeping a newborn child “comfortable” while a “discussion” took place in regard to infanticide. Talk about an “appalling culture.”

Carmen Villani graduated from VMI, class of 1976..