Generosity and Veterans Day

Who is the happy Warrior? …It is the generous Spirit… [William Wordsworth]

Much was said about America’s veterans yesterday. It was Veterans Day in the United States, a holiday originally established to remember the Armistice ending World War I and “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.” This year, the occasion was fraught with talk-show reflections about ongoing wars, last week’s tragedy at Fort Hood, and geopolitics. We should have these conversations. But on Veterans Day I wish the discourse dwelled more on the veterans themselves rather than on lofty abstractions. What do we know about these people who put themselves in harm’s way to serve our country? Each year, I meet plenty of men and women coming to Darden from the military of the U.S. and other countries. Because of my proximity, perhaps I see things that the pundits and public speakers don’t.

For instance, foremost in my mind yesterday was the attribute of generosity, the first quality mentioned by the poet, William Wordsworth, in his classic, The Character of the Happy Warrior. This poem is great source material for students of leadership. I see among our military veterans a tendency to lend a hand, form a team, find common ground, help a neighbor, and share ideas. They tend to be optimists and at the same time realists. They are people of proportion, willing to listen to all sides of a debate and yet think for themselves. Military leaders tend not to get very far without basic expressions of generosity—nor do great business executives. Wikipedia says that “Generosity is the habit of giving freely without coercion… spending time, money, or labor, for others, without being rewarded in return… looking out for society’s common good and giving from the heart.” In focusing first on generosity, Wordsworth got it right. I think that Veterans Day should be about celebrating generosity.

Veterans enrich our learning community. We actively seek excellent students from the ranks of the military. For this reason, Darden participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a component of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This program assists veterans in going back to school to re-tool, launch a new career, and/or continue their service to society in new ways. The Veterans Administration provides matching funds equal to three dollars for every dollar provided by the Darden School and its alums. Our capital campaign is aiming to raise the funds to sustain this wonderful outreach to veterans.

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