When I was born in the dark ages of the early 1960’s I was destined to attend one institution of higher learning, Clemson University.
For me, there was no choice, it was pre-ordained. I was to be the fourth generation of my family to attend and it was the best decision my parents ever made for me. There was this joke my daddy would tell to anyone within earshot. He’d say, “My son can go to any University he wants to go but if wants me to pay for it, he’ll go to Clemson.” I’d never even considered attending anywhere else.
Obviously for many, many reasons, I am not on the agenda to speak at this weekend’s Elite Junior Day. I’m thinking the day of activities couldn’t accommodate another long-winded bag of hot air. However, if I had been asked, I’d start by sharing the natural beauty of this place nestled in these special hills. I’d share with them what was written by a then Clemson sophomore and aspiring writer, Joe Sherman, class of 1934.
“There is something in these hills that brings together and binds together and holds together men and women of all persuasions, of all heights, sizes, weights, and cultural backgrounds. Something that cuts across every difference, spans every gap, penetrates every wall. Something that makes a man or a woman stand taller, feel better and say with high pride to all within earshot, ‘I went to Clemson.’”
Sure, it’s well used but no less a perfect introduction to this special place.
I’d speak of the diverse, rich but in some ways, painful history of Fort Hill, home of former Vice President, John C. Calhoun and his descendants. In particularly, I’d speak of the the gift left by Thomas Green Clemson, (“Old Green Tom” as he’s referred because his statue in front of Tillman Hall, years ago, fell victim to yearly painting by one particular rival.)
In his will, he gave this wonderful place to the state of South Carolina and it’s people for the establishment of Clemson College A&M. Providing for the teaching of Agriculture Sciences and the Mechanical (ie: Architecture, Engineering, Textile Management)
All set in military structure, it was to be a military school. It was a proud beginning in the fall of 1893 for 446 excited, fresh faced cadets. Like every subsequent class, they built the foundation from which Clemson continues by serving and growing to meet the educational needs of the citizens of South Carolina.
Sure, I’d share with them some anecdotal stories, traditions. I’d speak of the deep rooted military tradition, providing officers and enlisted men to every war from the Spanish American War until today. Many gave their lives, never to be forgotten. A history, a legacy, a heritage for those that chose Clemson to continue and be proud.
I’d speak of stewardship. The responsibility to maintain and enhance one thing, one place and leave it better that how one found it. No one person owns Clemson but in a strange way, she’s all of ours. I’d share a thousand reasons why they’d love Clemson, if they choose to become, “one of us.”
I wouldn’t even have to address the notoriety of the Clemson brand, the greatness of the athletics and it’s facilities. I’d never even waste a millisecond to introduce the architect of all they see, Dabo Swinney. They surely know him, everybody knows him. He’s a self-made, self-driven, humble and lovable character that from his dream, he created everything they’re here to see, hear and feel.
I’d try to explain the depth of devotion, generosity and pride of every one of the 170,000 living Clemson Alumni. How their Clemson education, like mine, led to a stellar, noble, worthy and valuable career. It’s a priceless possession and it’s there for them, if they only accept it.
I’m not sure if my inclusion at the Elite Junior Day event would entice even one young man to commit to Clemson. It might have the direct opposite effect with them and their family getting out of town as quickly as when they arrived.
The intentions and sincerity of my presentation might be lost on these young, growing, talented athletes. It might only matter to me, a proud Alumnus, Class of ‘85 and ‘89, of how I had the honor of sharing with them, this gift, one I’ve held since birth and one of the few things of real value I have to give.
Honestly, I completely understand that 16-17 year old young men don’t really care about the warm fuzzies of what I’m peddling nor can they begin to get me, I’m an anachronism. I would likely embarrass my family and Clemson folks everywhere by shedding a tear or two thinking of my appreciation, of my deep personal pride and my joy in being a Clemson Man. How just the mere singing of the Alma Mater brings up emotions that have been instilled in my soul, in the soul of my family since 1902 when the first member of my family graduated from Clemson. Yes, I’m a lifer.
This imaginary exercise is the equivalent of singing in the shower. I’m sure no one will ever hear a single word that matters but that’s okay by me, I’d just be thrilled to share my Clemson with just one of them, if asked. Yes, Clemson has been my one true, passionate, life-long love affair and there’s nothing more special in being known as a Clemson man.
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