GW must stand by Colonials nickname

Last week, Student Association President Ashley Le said she is considering “available options” regarding how to move forward after controversy about our university’s historic nickname, the Colonials.

As a proud and loyal GW alumnus, my suggestion is that we need to truly understand what it means to be a Colonial instead of changing the name. We should all value the history and traditions of an institution like GW – one that we have chosen to be a part of and that we all share.

Being identified as a Colonial fills me with pride. Along with many other alumni, I will continue my longtime and significant support for GW as long as we remain known as the Colonials.

As any student of American history knows, George Washington was a Colonial, living in Colonial America, like the rest of the soldiers in the Colonial Army. Washington and his troops fought bravely and risked everything to defeat the British Empire and to start a new democratic republic.

When England was defeated and this country’s new government was established, George Washington served two terms as the first president. This great University, based in the heart of the nation’s capital, is named for George Washington, the most illustrious founding father and the first elected leader of the United States. Our school colors, buff and blue, were the uniform colors worn by Washington and his officers and soldiers during the war for American independence.

Clearly the University’s name, colors and nickname are well coordinated and it all makes logical, historical sense. They are thoughtful and effective elements that work together to reinforce an impressive and memorable image for the institution.

GW’s nickname, the Colonials, has been used by students, athletes and teams, alumni and all aspects of the University community for almost a century. It honors George Washington and the early Americans who made great sacrifices to create this nation. GW’s historic nickname, the Colonials, deserves to be preserved, respected and appreciated for its true, inspirational and patriotic meaning.

GW is a caring, inclusive university community. So we should also understand that some of our family members have expressed different feelings for the Colonials nickname based on their own perspective and personal experience. The best way to address this concern would be for the University to do a better job, starting at Colonial Inauguration for incoming students each year, communicating GW’s rich history and explaining the value and significance of GW’s symbols and traditions.

We should start this worthwhile effort now, as preparations are being made for the University’s bicentennial celebration in 2021. In three short years, we will all come together as Colonials, the buff and blue, to celebrate two centuries of growth and progress and to plan for the future. Let’s move forward together, with our shared traditions and with mutual respect and understanding.

Michael La Place is a two-time GW alumnus who graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and in 1989 with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning.

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