Distinguished veteran and cyber-policy specialist Col. Glenn (Alex) Crowther appeared at Hamilton Wednesday as this year’s headline speaker for the annual General Josiah Bunting III Veterans Day Lecture. Crowther’s lecture was hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Institute Undergraduate Fellows at Hamilton College and was prefaced by a brief introduction by Professor of History Robert Paquette.
Crowther, an individual whose resume boasts over 30 years of active service in the U.S. Army, including eight overseas tours, said that he has found the defining feature of America to be the sheer volume of opportunity available to its citizens; a trait with which he was quick to draw direct to ties to America’s history and culture of service, both in the military and elsewhere.
“The country that we have inherited in the 21st century,” he claimed, “opportunity and all, is built upon the service of those who came before us.” He continued to espouse the importance of a participatory citizenship to the functioning of a democracy, but he did not limit the scope of that participation to merely political involvement.
To Crowther, service, and all that comes with it, is just as important a form of participation in the democratic process as voting or other political engagement.
“You don’t need to put on a uniform to serve,” he said. “Our diplomats, they serve, the bureaucrats in Washington, they serve, nurses, they serve… as long as you are giving back to your community, then (that) is your service.” America’s culture of service, Crowther argued, began with the founding fathers. “(The founders) didn’t need to be revolutionaries,” he explained. “They were the elite, they were the landowners... But they had an ideal.” However, he continued, in today’s age America has faced a deficiency in what he called the “soaring rhetoric” that has throughout this nation’s history stirred the public to service.
That rhetoric can be seen, said Crowther, in the words of Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, but has been largely absent in our major politicians since the end of the Cold War. “People need to be reminded,” he opined, “It’s a constant requirement to remind everyone why they have to serve.”
Small liberal arts schools like Hamilton, he argued, have had an impact in that regard, and have produced some of the most distinguished servicemen and women in the nation’s history. “Hamilton, Tufts, these small Northeastern schools provide people from across the country and across the world opportunity, and these schools have punched above their weight when it comes to service.”
He concluded by putting the onus on the next generation to continue America’s culture of proud service, saying “You should continue to serve others, because not everyone has the opportunity to come to a place like (Hamilton). If this is going to continue to be a country where a plumber’s kid can come to a place like this, then we’re all going to need to continue to serve.”
Col. Crowther then fielded questions from the audience on far-ranging topics, from his experience in the Pentagon on 9/11, to America’s peculiar ahistoricism, nation-building in Iraq, and the nature of freedom in today’s age.