On Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, I taught my class on the history of education, as usual. I’m embarrassed to say that I was barely aware that it was Veterans’ Day. I didn’t mention it. I wish I had. It’s important, very important. Wellesley should honor veterans by celebrating the Veterans’ Day holiday. The College has the motto “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare,” not to be ministered unto, but to minister, a call to service that we don’t honor for military service. Service people risk their lives for us. They put themselves in “harm’s way” to protect us. No matter what our personal views are on the many military interventions and wars in which the United States has been involved — and I have not and do not support some of them — I support people who have served.
Now, with a voluntary army and no draft, many of those who serve are disproportionately from low-income backgrounds. Few in the U.S. Congress or the administration have children in the service. I wonder if they would have risked so much life and treasure if their own children were at risk. Such lack of general participation was not always so. Service was viewed as the responsibility of all citizens, no matter their social status. Think about the Civil War and World War II. We showered people who served in these wars with accolades. After Vietnam, this changed. Now many veterans return to no honors, often ignored and injured. This is wrong.
In fact, Wellesley played an important role in World War II. Mildred McAfee (Horton), sixth President of Wellesley beginning in 1936, took a leave of absence to become the first director of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in the US Navy. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Women’s Reserve in 1942, McAfee became a Lieutenant Commander and was put in charge. She was the first woman to be commissioned an officer in the United States Navy. McAfee was promoted to Commander in 1942 and, at the peak of the war, commanded more than 80,000 women. McAfee helped lead the campaign for equal pay and benefits for women. In 1943, a law was passed entitling women in the Women’s Reserves the same benefits as men. McAfee returned to Wellesley to serve as President from 1946 to 1948. She received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor awarded for exceptionally meritorious service to the US government. She retired from Wellesley in 1948; McAfee residence hall was named in her honor in 1951.
So Wellesley has a proud history of military service. Many of you may have parents, siblings, relatives, friend, and partners who served or are serving in the military. You understand what personal sacrifices they have made for us. I am calling on President Bottomly and Provost Andrew Shennan to change our college calendar next year, to honor veterans. It is fitting that Wellesley show visible support. We must honor all kinds of service. It is part of our mission. Please join me in supporting my petition.
Chair, Education Department