The video clip below is from the movie “Glory.” Whenever I think of the sacrifice of soldiers, and the courage they are asked to exhibit, I remember this scene. The scene portrays the night before the 54th Massachusetts Infantry – an all-black regiment fighting for the North in the Civil War – would lead an assault on a Confederate fort. Due the circumstances of the battle plan, the 54th is almost assured to be decimated in the fight. Thus, the men you see in the clip know that they will most likely die the next day. However, because of their strong desire to make a contribution in this war, they turn their fears into pride. They know that their bravery, and their sacrifice, will mean so much to the cause they are fighting for.
The scene also reflects the internal struggle these former slaves had with their perceptions of themselves as men. For so long, they were considered inhuman – more like property or animals rather than men. As they bonded together, learned from each other, and were pushed by their leaders, they developed self-confidence and self-worth. The character portrayed by Denzel Washington struggles with this throughout the film, and the scene shows him finally voicing his understanding that he – and his fellow soldiers – are men who matter.
What does this have to do with fraternity? Perhaps not much. I see fraternity in this scene. I feel brotherhood through their singing. I see leadership flowing back and forth amongst the men. I see how supportive they are of each other.
We also should remember all of our members who fought for our nation, and those who fight today.
The struggles we face as Greek-letter organizations are nothing compared to what real-life soldiers face each day. We should never make that an even comparison. The black men who stepped up to fight for the country that had treated them so poorly are examples of selflessness and dedication that none of us will likely match in our lifetimes.
On this Veteran’s Day, we should all put our challenges in perspective. However, we can also learn from those who show bravery and courage through military service. As I hear undergraduates complain about the amount of work it would take to build a stronger fraternity or sorority, I often want to remind them that there are men and women of a similar age, who spend their days loading up a weapon, putting on a uniform, and stepping forward into a day that they may never see the end of. We owe it to them, and those who fought before them, to strive to be as courageous and dedicated in our dealings. They should inspire us to greater leadership in whatever cause we are a part of.
Morgan Freeman, through his character in the scene, references the impending battle as their great “gettin’-up” moment. What’s yours? It may be smaller than what these soldiers had to endure, but just like them, we shouldn’t shirk from that great and glorious opportunity.
Fraternal Thoughts in Print!
Big news! 24 of the most-read and beloved posts from this blog have been compiled into a book, Forever Fraternity: Essays to Challenge, Celebrate and Advance the College Fraternity. Discussion questions have been added in order to make the book an educational tool as well.
Order your copy off of Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you wish to order a quantity of 20 or more to use for a program or Greek leadership class, contact John Shertzer at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount.
An e-reader version will be available soon!