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As many of you know, I wrote a diary on Saturday about a disgusting display by a large portion of the fans at Clemson's Memorial Stadium during what was supposed to be Military Appreciation Day. For those that did not catch that column, tens of thousands of Clemson fans booed the mention of the office of president during a military oath taken by soon-to-commission ROTC cadets.

Today, Clemson president Jim Barker sent out a public email to all students and alumni, condemning the behavior. I have had my disagreements with Barker over the years, but this is an honorable move that will hopefully serve as a reminder to those people who chose to sully a formerly sacred process.

The text of the email states:

Dear William,

Saturday’s football game marked Clemson’s annual observance of Military Appreciation Day, a time when we pay tribute to veterans, men and women currently serving and those who gave their lives to protect us. Clemson has a strong military heritage, and this day is always a special occasion.

Unfortunately, the day was marred by bad behavior from some fans. During the ceremony inducting ROTC cadets into the military, a number of fans booed during the section of the oath they take to obey the President of the United States.

I understand that we are in the home stretch of a heated presidential election and that freedom of speech is a right which makes our country great. Regardless of one’s political leanings, however, this ceremony was a sacred moment to the recruits, their families, and many others in attendance. Many Clemson people have contacted me to express their sadness and disappointment at this public display of disrespect for the office of the President and the young people taking a solemn oath that day.  I share those sentiments.

As the election draws closer, negative campaigning is intensifying on both sides.  The heated rhetoric and lack of civility we hear every day on TV, radio and in social media can be contagious.  But it is possible to hold opposing viewpoints and debate issues without rancor and disrespect – as demonstrated at a recent Strom Thurmond Institute roundtable discussion with political science Professors Bruce Ransom and Dave Woodard.  

Political campaigns seek to divide us – to highlight differences in order to drive us into opposing camps.  I believe there is far more that unites us, as Americans and members of the Clemson family. These include:

    Our core Clemson values of honesty, integrity and respect for others.
    Our respect for the military and support for our servicemen and women.
    Our respect for the Constitution they are sworn to uphold, which is clear in placing ultimate authority in our civilian Commander-in-Chief, the President.

Passion about issues, commitment to candidates and participation in the democratic process are all vitally important.  But when the voting is done, we have one President and he is President of us all.

After November 6, our nation will need to work together to solve the many challenges that lie ahead.  Engaging in positive dialogue and choosing the right time and place to voice our opinions will help us do that.

Sincerely,

--Jim Barker

James F. Barker, FAIA
President
Clemson University
201 Sikes Hall
Clemson, South Carolina 29634

I and many others wrote letters to the president and, at least in my case, to local papers. I'm glad someone in power in willing to condemn these antics for what they were - rude, disrespectful, and embarrassing.

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