(The pictures above are George Marshall as a cadet at VMI; Marie, Stuart — his older sister and brother –and George; the Virginia Military Institute — VMI)
We’ll be talking about the character strength of Integrity today, which is one of the Tenets of Taekwondo. The word comes originally from the Latin Integritas, which means “wholeness, soundness, something complete in itself.”
An important part of Integrity is that we are true to ourselves. We accept and take responsibility for what kind of person we are — who we aspire to be, the values we believe in, and the actions we take. We are honest with ourselves. To understand this better, we’ll talk about how George Marshall wiped his brother’s eye.
As a boy growing up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, George Marshal struggled a lot in school. He often felt shy and awkward, and he didn’t want to be called on in class. He was afraid he would give the wrong answer and look foolish in front of everyone. Some people thought he was stupid; others thought he was just lazy. No-one but George’s mother thought he would ever amount to much.
In 1897, when he turned 16, George decided that as an adult, he wanted to become an officer in the US Army. He thought the best way to do this was to go to the Virginia Military Institute. At VMI he could study military science, and work to get better at subjects like math and grammar that he was weak in. The physical training at the school would help him to get stronger and more coordinated — George was tall for his age, but had grown very fast, so he was skinny and a bit clumsy.
George’s mother wasn’t sure about letting him go to VMI. His older brother, Stuart, was sure — he was sure it was a bad idea. Stuart told George’s mother not to let him go — that he would disgrace the family name. Stuart made it plain that he thought George was a loser — and always would be.
George said later: “That made more impression on me than all instructors, parental pressure, or anything else. I decided right then I was going to wipe his face, or wipe his eye.” George was angry at his brother, but his reaction was more than that. He was determined to take responsibility for who he was going to be in his life, and how he was going to live it. He wasn’t going to let his brother — or anyone else — define him as a loser.
With his mother’s help, George did go to VMI. He studied hard and improved consistently as a student there. He excelled in military science. By the time he graduated, he had been chosen as the leading cadet — First Captain. He took the Army entrance exam and passed. George was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on January 4, 1902.
- George decided to go to VMI in part because he didn’t think he could get into West Point — he wasn’t a good enough student yet, and he wouldn’t be able to pass the Army physical exam. Do you think it took integrity for George to understand his shortcomings, and yet still stick to his goal of becoming an Army officer one day?
- Should George have let his brother Stuart define him as “a disgrace to the family name”? Did it take integrity for him to refuse to accept this as true?
- George worked hard for 4 years to be a good student at VMI. He was one of 10,000 people who took the exam for 2nd Lieutenant — only 141 others passed. Did George do all this just because he was angry at his brother Stuart, or do you think there was more involved? Was he trying to be true to himself?
Please share your answers to these questions, and your thoughts about Integrity, with our school community by using the form below.
© T.R. Booker, 2018