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Public Affairs : 2013 Founders Day

Cadets participate in Founders Day Luncheon

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood

Staff Writer

WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 20, 2013) — Founders Day celebrations typically consist of a formal dinner, speeches by distinguished West Point graduates or representatives of the U.S. Military Academy, the singing of “The Corps” and the “Alma Mater.”

There was a change in the venue for the Founders Day celebration. A luncheon was held at the Cadet Mess March 7 with the 74th Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clarke as speaker.

The change in venue was to allow cadets to attend the Women’s Patriot League first round playoff basketball game between the Army Black Knights and the Colgate Raiders.

“Normally at this time of year, the superintendent, dean and I would travel all over the United States and the world to provide our alumni, old and young, insights on the state of the military academy,” Clarke said. “(It’s about) sharing the unique sense of pride and lasting camaraderie that comes with being a member of the Long Gray Line.

“At camps, posts and stations all around the world, the youngest graduate usually presents remarks, and then the oldest graduate will talk for a few minutes about (his) time at West Point,” he added.

Clarke spoke about the first Founders Day in 1902 when a group of graduates decided to celebrate in the Philippines.

“History records indicate Founders Day gained popularity (since 1902),” Clarke said. “In 1914, the first Founders Day celebration was held in New York City. Since then, President Eisenhower, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Gen. Creighton Abrams Jr., Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and many other celebrities have come to New York and West Point to speak about the ideals and foundations of this academy.”

Clarke, Class of 1984 USMA graduate, spoke how the academy keeps track of every single graduate since 1802 with the Cullum Number initiated by Brevet Major General George Cullum, Class of 1833, who started chronicling the careers of every member of the Long Gray Line in 1850.

“We keep track of every graduate,” Clarke said. “Today, we have 69,237 graduates, of which 49,197 are still living today. You will be issued a Cullum number, which equates to the year you graduated and registers your class rank. My personal Cullum number is 40,986. Our oldest living graduate today is 101 years old from the class of 1935. His Cullum number is 10,404, and the most recent December 2012 graduate has a Cullum number of 69,203. An interesting piece of trivia that all of you will be assigned one day as you matriculate through this institution.”

In speaking to the cadets, Clarke talked about the pride he feels for each cadet, and the fact they are here at West Point and made a commitment to the nation speaks volumes about their character.

“All of you are members of the 9/11 generation,” he said. “A generation that saw our country attacked and since 9/11, have internalized the fact that our very way of life is now threatened in ways Americans had never known before.”


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First Captain Brandon Whittington addresses the Corps of Cadets during the Founders Day luncheon March 7.

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Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Richard Clarke explains the significance of Founders Day during the luncheon at the Cadet Mess.
 
 
Clarke realized that most of the cadets were in kindergarten to 6th grade when this attack happened, but all of them came to West Point knowing full well they joined an Army at war.

“It’s true while many of you have been studying at West Point, combat actions in Iraq have ceased and combat actions in Afghanistan are coming to a close, but the global war on terrorism is not over and will not go away anytime soon,” Clarke said.

Someday, these future officers will be called on to lead Soldiers in some other place in an uncertain and unknowing future.

“Because of that, you have no idea of the honor it is for an old graduate like me to be able to stand amongst your ranks and consider all of you brothers and sisters at arms. I salute each and every one of you.” Clarke said. “At the end of the day, when the policy makers are finished talking, the debates have ceased, the negotiations have failed and the orders given, it will be your mission to lead the young men and women assigned to your care to execute national policy and to charge that last 500 meters in any given objective.”