You May Be Whatever You Resolve To Be—Sort Of

As a Stonewall Jackson fanboy, I admit I was disappointed to learn today of news that the Virginia Military Institute will be removing Stonewall Jackson’s name from the campus’s Jackson Memorial Hall and the Jackson Arch, which spans the passageway into the cadet barracks (see here for details). This comes in the wake of the removal of Jackson’s statue from the head of the parade ground last year and in the midst of other considerations the Institute is making about its Civil War history.

Remaining on the Arch-formerly-known-as-Jackson’s will be the legend “You may be whatever you resolve to be.” It was an aphorism Jackson once collected and which has since become closely associated with him. VMI says it will better contextualize the quotation with a plaque in the archway explaining the aphorism’s history and its relationship to Jackson, but it will remove Jackson’s name from beneath the quote, which suggests the quote is attributed to him.

Honestly, “You may be whatever you resolve to be” is some of the best inspirational advice I’ve ever heard, and in my own family, I’ve touted it as a guiding principle for all three of my children. Back in 2016, with a new year about to dawn, I reflected on the quotation, its history, and its value as good advice. Please, take a read if you feel thus inclined. You may read whatever you resolve to read.


13 Responses to You May Be Whatever You Resolve To Be—Sort Of

  1. I have some hopefully less objectionable suggestions:

    “This Space For Rent”

    “Question Authority”

    “Reserved for Future Generations’ Fashionable, Progressive, Less Offensive Aphorisms”

  2. Virginia is 20% Black but the student body at taxpayer-funded VMI is under 7%. Does the adulation of the “Rebel” general possibly play a role in that pattern?

    1. Is 20% of the University of Virginia’s student body black? I’ll answer for you, it was less than 7% in 2019. No doubt if they bulldoze down every building Thomas Jefferson had a hand in more black Virginians will attend that school.

      Taxpayer funded HBCs in Virginia will also have another thing coming if they ever have to strive to match the state’s racial makeup. They are literally taxpayer funded public institutions of racial segregation. Of course that was how white Jim Crow Virginia designed it. Today though? What’s the point?

      There is so much work left to do, but by whom?

    1. I feel sorry for the cadets. The world knows VMI to be one of the West’s—and the Free World’s—premier military institutions. Anyone who’s studied American history to any depth (as many officers in foreign militaries have) knows that Jackson risked arrest and harassment by running (and paying for) a Sunday School for slaves. They also know he’s VMI’s most accomplished battlefield general. And yet, VMI seems to be doing everything it can to diminish Jackson’s legacy. It’s as VMI’s leadership can’t deal with a complex figure from America’s past. Is that how we want our leaders to act? What kind of example is this?

      I imagine the students at Sandhurst (the UK’s Army academy) and St. Cyr (France’s) are looking at VMI’s sandblasting of its history and scratching their heads in puzzlement. At Nanjing, the PRC’s Army Command school, they’re undoubtedly laughing in derision.

      VMI may come out of this with a reputation as the Snowflake Military Institute. Which is unfair to the cadets. I’ve seen no evidence that there was widespread revulsion for Jackson in the current cadet corps or in the alumni. Instead, it appears some activists in Washington and Richmond bullied VMI into this. But it’s the cadets whose reputations will be tainted.

  3. They’re being a bunch of gutless wretches. I’m glad my grandfather, class of 1933 isn’t here to see it.

  4. I don ‘t believe paying for a Sunday school for slaves makes up for fighting against your country.

    If you want to honor Stonewall, make it a purpose to study his campaigns, especially the 1862 Valley Campaign, a campaign that military schools still study as a learning exercise, to this day.

    Thats what I have done.

    1. I wonder if there will now be some hesitation at studying Jackson’s exploits in Army tactics classes, because he was a Confederate general who owned slaves.

      That would be an extreme reaction. Jackson’s exploits in the Valley Campaign are a textbook example of how to defeat a larger enemy force by attacking it in detail. His attack on the XI Corps at Chancellorsville exemplifies how to use economy of force, maneuver, surprise and audacity on the battlefield.

      But, it was an extreme action by VMI to sandblast almost any mention of Stonewall from VMI Main Post. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Stonewall’s exploits mentioned less prominently in Army tactics training.

      At least in the United States, that it. At Sandhurst, St. Cyr and Nanjing, they probably won’t feel any impulse to minimize Stonewall’s battlefield exploits.

      1. There are quite a few lessons to be learned from studying the 1862 Valley Campaign.

        And it is a nice tour to do. Few touring companies offer it. I did it with a friend after I retired, spending 12 days going down and up and down the Shenandoah Valley. We took an original dirt covered road while going to McDowell, and we were able to walk up Sitlington’s Hill.

        Blue and Gray magazine had 5 issues devoted to the Campaign, and we followed then to the letter. I figure we saw 98% of the sites that were listed in the various tours. Maybe, one house we couldn’t locate.

      2. Based on what I’ve been told, they use all sorts of examples from history – including WWI and WWII – to teach tactics and strategy in the Dep’t of Military Instruction. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Schlieffen Plan from 1914 and the Japanese offensive in Malaysia are just examples. Same with the Command and General Staff College. I think this is a reach. There’s a big difference between removing symbols honoring somebody and using tactics illustrated by his military performance to teach the subject.

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