Few people may realize that President’s Day is actually neither Abraham Lincoln nor George Washington’s birthday. In fact it will be Feb. 22 that marks the birthday of the father of our nation and the man our school is named after. While there is a bonfire planned, along with a pie-eating contest, I frankly could not tell you if we had the same event last year to celebrate. It’s nothing to get excited over.
Our school has a strong tradition of having no traditions. Sure we have Fall Fest, Spring Fling and a picture perfect commencement in front of famous landmarks, but when it comes to random acts of spirit, GW certainly lacks – imagine President Steven Knapp leading the school in a rousing midnight chorus of Happy Birthday to the statue of George. This doesn’t have to be the case for a University that has the full weight of a founding father and a revolution to draw upon for inspiration.
Considering all of the possible sources, ideas come easily. For instance, when the weather turns from miserable to warm why don’t we celebrate the spring by holding a “Crossing of the Delaware?” First one to row across the Potomac is crowned American Revolutionary of the Year. Of course, like the famous painting they would have to accomplish the crossing standing up, adding to the entertainment value for all. Imagining the myriad of lawsuits resulting from even limited exposure to the Potomac is frightening, but I just mean to illustrate that given our school’s background there should be no lack of original ideas for events.
Even things that don’t include the pleasure of watching my classmates plunge into the Potomac could be the beginnings of a strong tradition. Imagine if every year on the basketball game day closest to Oct. 17, the anniversary of Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, Karl Hobbs dressed as George marched to the center of the Smith Center and demanded the surrender of the opposing team in honor of the occasion. With our current record things may end up differently for the Colonials after the battle is over, but nonetheless it would be a game that could draw those who usually don’t attend.
We don’t need to be a big state school to have these events. A local example is Georgetown University where every year, students climb into the Dahlgren Fountain partially to get out of the heat, but mostly because it is a unifying experience for only Georgetown students.
Now in all fairness the Colonial Challenge does organize good events. The recent game-day spirit event was well coordinated and George’s birthday will be marked by a celebration. But the reason that these events will never become well-entrenched traditions is that they do little to develop a sense of identity.
The birthday celebration will include a cherry pie eating contest and a hunt for George Washington around the city. The eating contest is on the right track, even if it does lack some creativity. The scavenger hunt, however, will do little to build school spirit. A key to developing these traditions is to include something unique to the University’s heritage and we’ve been doing scavenger hunts since elementary school.
Traditions are not meant to be rational and the genesis for these random acts of school spirit can come from the most obscure sources. The only necessity is that GW fully owns that inspiration. With George Washington and the American Revolution as a backdrop for our name and image, there shouldn’t be this deficit of ideas and traditions.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
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