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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

January 21, 2012 at 11:25 AM

Santorum Salutes the Citadel

with reporting by Lindsey Meeks

Drum Major in the weekly retreat parade at The Citadel.

CHARLESTON – The Citadel sits a few miles outside the City of Charleston’s town center, along a lazy tributary that feeds from the ocean. But laziness has no place on this public military college, where the three core values of honor, duty, and respect are manifested in crisp precision. From the cut of the cadets’ pressed indigo uniforms, to the synchronized marching formation on display during their Friday Retreat Parade, this is a campus that runs like clockwork.

The Retreat Parade, held weekly during the academic year, embodies the cord of history that The Citadel rigorously maintains. While spectators snapped photos on their iPhones, nearly 2000 cadets—both men and women since 1995 when The Citadel grudgingly became coeducational—strutted Summerall Field in a formation that harkened back to the pre-Civil War era.

Amid the unmistakable howl of military commands from the officers, there was an unexpected sound (besides the cannon fire that is). From the distant corner of the field, a smaller, less resonant voice reported on her company. Commander Charlotte Perrott of the Fifth Battalion, from London, England, is the only female among the 50 company officers. As of 2008, females made up approximately 7% of the Corps of Cadets.

Despite the decision to go co-ed, not much has changed in the school’s almost 170 year history, including the names of cadets. Sophomore Cadet Adam Stone, a native son of South Carolina, said that many cadets come to The Citadel to carry on a family legacy started by their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers. Entering cadets can request to join the same company as their predecessors, he said, adding, “Tradition runs deep here.”

Later that evening, the exacting precision witnessed in the parade was replaced by a chaotic gaggle of cadets presenting Rick Santorum with the Citadel Patriot Award. (At one point, attendees thought the presentation was over and started leaving. Confused cadets shouted to their compatriots by the exit to shut the doors and not let people leave. Perhaps The Citadel should add Event Planning to their curriculum.)

Santorum, however, was not thrown. In faded jeans and his infamous branded sweater vest, Santorum charmed the crowd with jokes. “If you’re a young lady at a dance hall, you walk by the guy in the sweater vest. But he’s the guy you can trust,” he said.

He moved effortlessly from humor to reverence when he reflected on his surroundings, “The Citadel is built on trust and honor.” Knowing that that 60% of Citadel graduates will choose to serve in the military post-graduation, Santorum spoke in measured and clear language about foreign policy threats he perceives the United States faces: “radical theocrats” and dependence on oil. “This is the challenge we face,” he said, “Let’s just hope it will be a new leader of this country who will face it.”

Comments | Topics: charleston, Election 2012, Rick Santorum

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