West Point Going Gender Neutral
West Point is changing its Alma Mater and most cherished poem to be more gender neutral.
The head of the U.S. Military Academy thinks it’s time to replace the “men” and “sons” in West Point’s two most beloved songs with more gender-neutral lyrics. Lt. Gen. Franklin “Buster” Hagenbeck, superintendent of the nation’s oldest military academy, told a congressional oversight committee Wednesday that with more than 3,000 women graduating from West Point since 1976, the change is long overdue.
During a presentation Wednesday to the academy’s Board of Visitors meeting in Washington, Hagenbeck said he wants to change the words to the military academy’s alma mater and its companion piece, “The Corps.” Both songs date back about a century. In “The Corps,” the proposals include changing “The men” to “The ranks,” and “We sons” to “The Corps.” The superintendent said the changes aren’t being pushed by female cadets, but it’s a commonsense move considering the role women play in today’s military. “When are they going to be recognized for what they’re doing?” he said.
Hagenbeck said he got the idea for the revision two years ago at a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of women being admitted to West Point. He listened as the female alums sang lyrics from the songs that included, “We sons of today, we salute you.”
Hagenbeck has spent the last few months discussing the possible changes with alumni, Army brass and cadets. He said he’ll make the final decision, possibly after graduation ceremonies on May 31 and before the Class of 2012 arrives this summer.
While seemingly trivial, this is a major change to beloved Corps institutions. And West Point loves its tradition. Still, it’s hard to argue that it makes sense, more than a generation after the first females graduated from the Academy, to have cadets chant, “We sons of today, we salute you/You sons of an earlier day.” One wonders if the second “sons” will go as well?
Incidentally, while there’s technically music to go with it, “The Corps” began and exists primarily as a poem. Indeed, I’m not at all sure I’ve ever heard it sung.
Also, if the Supe’s up for making changes to bring these institutions into the modern day, one wonders whether “With eyes up thanking our God” is up for review? Then again, I’m not sure what else will rhyme with “Where they of the corps have trod.”
Story via email tip from Jeff Quinton.