Dear Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.),
It is the intent of the Hampden-Sydney College Young Democrats to address you with our specific concerns over your recent statements, which we believe to be offensive and uncharacteristic of a decorated public servant and a United States military leader. As the main student organization at Hampden-Sydney that promotes the ideals and agenda of the Democratic Party and/or “the left,” as you often refer to it, we feel it imperative to respectfully add our organization’s voice to other inquiries regarding this issue.
We intend to focus on your recent comments about the “declining morality in our military.” You stated, “the military has been targeted by the left…largely by the gay and lesbian lobby, ah, but also by other elements of the left to bring the military down because the military has been a bastion of morality and ethics.” In making these comments, you continued to assert that the left is to blame for General David Petraeus’s infidelity, a ludicrous and baseless claim, to say the very least. While we may not entirely share your view that it has always been “a bastion of morality and ethics,” we firmly believe that the US military, despite a few unfortunate isolated incidents, has been a force for good throughout history and has served the United States well in defending our freedom and our values. As a party or an ideology, we are neither interested in nor desire to “bring down the military.” The President, along with the support of Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, numerous bipartisan former Generals and Admirals, including General Petraeus, and bipartisan majorities of Congress, made a change to military policy to allow gay and lesbian Americans serve their country openly and without fear of retribution or harassment. This move did not impair the military’s ability to serve as a global force for good. There is no evidence to prove that an individual’s sexual orientation serves to limit or hinder his/her job performance, no matter what his/her chosen field. Likewise soldiers’ sexual orientation does not negatively affect their ability to give or follow orders, their skills or abilities or limit their degree of courage to complete intricate missions and defend our country. Both history and the expert opinion of a broad, bipartisan majority of military experts and veterans have repeatedly refuted claims similar to yours regarding homosexual individuals in military service. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ strengthened the military’s moral fabric and helped to align its ideals and official policy with the common views of a broad majority of Americans, ensuring that no one American has to lie about his/her identity in order to serve their country. Further speaking on the “the left’s” commitment to the military, President Obama has orchestrated the responsible end to the War in Iraq, is leading us responsibly out of Afghanistan, and has decimated Al-Qaeda and other terrorists networks, thereby strengthening our nation and saluting the strength and resolve of our armed forces.
Moving past our analysis of President Obama’s record as Commander-in-Chief, which is likely different from your view, we seek to express even deeper concerns about your conduct. You do not seem to realize, or attempt to accept even, the reality that there are gay and lesbian Americans who have served, or are currently serving, this country with distinction and honor. They have fought courageously to defend all of our freedoms, even your freedom to lash out at them publicly. They are honorable men and women and are in no way whatsoever deserving of your vitriolic derision. Any man or woman, gay or straight, liberal or conservative, of whatever race or religious preference, who serves our nation with valor is worthy of our gratitude and respect. Even though we disagree with your comments and views, we are indeed truly appreciative and grateful for your years of service to our nation. Yet we cannot ignore the fact that your recent comments are not representative of the honor and leadership that your résumé suggests.
In further discussing this issue, we seek to make another important objection regarding your words and your conduct, stemming from your position as a professor at Hampden-Sydney College with the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest. While we acknowledge your freedom of speech, we remind you that your position renders you a representative of this institution and your words harbor meaning beyond your personal political opinions. Hampden-Sydney College has established the creation of “Good Men, Good Citizens” as its primary goal and motto for decades. Your comments are not reflective of a good man or a good citizen, nor are they reflective of Hampden-Sydney’s emphasis on academic excellence and intellectual honesty. Frankly, the fact you would make such ill-informed, inconsiderate, and offensive tirades, in whatever capacity, makes you a poor representative of Hampden-Sydney and the students and faculty who make up our community. It would truly be a travesty and embarrassment if one outside of our community were to hear your bellicose words and assume that it reflects the culture and character of the Hampden-Sydney community. Such an assumption could not be further from the truth.
As an organization of “the left” at Hampden-Sydney, we are disappointed and concerned that this is the representation of our college that you seek to project. We also believe it to be essential that our school’s leaders work towards bringing our campus together to foster diversity and open academic debate, as opposed to further dividing our campus along the lines of race, political belief, sexual orientation, or any other classification. Inspiring unity and acceptance of diversity are clearly not goals or feasible outcomes of your comments. For that reason, we encourage the Hampden-Sydney community to reject your words in a most unquestionable manner.
In making this inquiry, we have only a few simple requests. We urge you to find it in your disposition to apologize publicly to those in both this community and in the armed forces for your conduct and your words. We ask that you recant, in no uncertain terms, your statements that demean Democrats and/or “the left.” Even if you disagree with our party on numerous social, political, economic, and foreign policy issues, for you to assert that we do not care about our brothers and sisters in the armed forces or that we want to “bring down the military” is irresponsible and derisive. We ask that you apologize to the LGBTQ community for your offensive claims about their capability to serve our nation. We further ask you to apologize for your erroneous representation of Hampden-Sydney College. While there are political differences among our students and faculty, we are largely a community that respects each other’s differences and appreciates each other’s brotherhood. We are Hampden-Sydney men before we are Democrats or Republicans, and we signed an honor code to our brothers, which we hold above any pledges to our party. Finally, we ask you to refrain from making such outlandish comments and ridiculous assertions so long as you maintain a connection to Hampden-Sydney College.
We will close this letter by alluding to your position at Hampden-Sydney. You are a professor of Leadership and Ethics, yet your comments and your conduct very clearly reflect a disregard for both. Hampden-Sydney College and its community deserve better. Those who serve our nation in uniform deserve better. We invite your public response to this inquiry and hope you will engage us in public discourse over this matter. I will close with the words of President Lincoln, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Our words and our actions represent the caliber of our character. We feel it our duty to make this inquiry with you and we sincerely hope you feel it your duty to respond appropriately. Thank you for your time and consideration.
On behalf of the Hampden-Sydney Young Democrats
M. Braxton Marcela ‘13, President, H-SC Young Democrats
Diego Velasco ’14, Communications Advisor