Honor, duty, and respect. Those are the core values that guide decisions made each day at The Citadel. But it is not the easy decisions that call on us to apply these values; it is the difficult ones. Such is the case with the subject of a Confederate Naval Jack in Summerall Chapel on campus. In the spirit of respect for both sides of an issue with deep-rooted convictions, and under our duty to obey the law, The Citadel has determined that the flag, which was presented in 1939, is subject to the state's Heritage Act and must remain. That conclusion is based on guidance from our legal counsel.
The flag is but one of many historic items displayed in the chapel which is visited by hundreds of tourists each month. Indeed, the entire chapel and its contents are a monument "To the Glory of God and to The Citadel's Patriot Dead" as inscribed on its walls. All the chapel flags, its stained glass windows, tablets and accoutrements were accepted by Gen. Summerall as memorials to those alumni who served and sacrificed. Making alterations or changes to any of these Chapel memorials would violate the South Carolina Heritage Act.
That law was passed by the South Carolina Legislature in 2000 for the protection of established monuments and memorials located on public property that represent any wars that Americans have ever fought in or monuments reflecting African-American or Native-American history.
What is the origin of the flag?
In 1939, longtime Citadel President Gen. Charles P. Summerall accepted this flag along with many others from around the nation to be displayed in the chapel. A cadet organization presented the flag to Gen. Summerall, which he accepted as "a tribute to the courage and valor shown by American manhood in fighting for a cause."
Any flag elicits strong emotions for those who have been on either side of a conflict. Yet one of the true tests of leadership is making the proper decision when both sides have valid arguments. We cannot choose which laws to obey. By leaving the flag in the chapel where it was given as a memorial, we are obeying the law of South Carolina, remaining true to our Citadel military heritage and to Gen. Summerall's original intent.
At The Citadel, we must not lose sight of the strong elements that unite us. Our mission is to educate and develop principled leaders who understand the values of honor, duty and respect as they prepare to serve the next generation. I ask that we all focus on our common goals as we move forward, being mindful of our need to respect diverse opinions, respect the sacrifices of our distinguished alumni, and obey state law.
Lt. Gen. W. Michael Steele U.S. Army (Ret.)
Chair of The Citadel Board of Visitors
Moultrie Street, Charleston