The Columns

Presidential Warmup

— by on December 2nd, 2009

Only moments before the network TV cameras went live from Eisenhower Hall at West Point for President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last night, a Washington and Lee alumnus stood at the podium where the president would stand and addressed the Corps of Cadets and gathered dignitaries. Col. James T. (Ty) Seidule, a 1984 W&L history major, provided introductory remarks prior to President Obama’s address. Ty’s 15-minute speech provided a brief history of past presidential visits to the Academy. If you happened to be watching online at C-SPAN.org, you would have caught Ty’s speech. (We’ll try to post the audio or video eventually.) Ty is Academy Professor and chief of the military history division of the department of history at West Point. He teaches a course on West Point history and was quoted in a USA Today piece Wednesday that discussed the relationship between presidents and West Point. In his speech, Ty called West Point is “a metaphor for the American character” and noted that there is “a special relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and the West Point cadets.” Ty also reminded the cadets that their role was clear with respect to the president’s decisions regarding troop deployment: “We are the executors, not the advocates of national policy.” He added that “presidents have enjoyed their visits and cadets have enjoyed hosting them.” He went on to say that part of the cadets’ enjoyment of the visits is because “only the president can grant amnesty for minor offenses.” (The president did not grant amnesty last night because of the serious nature of his speech; instead, the commandant of cadets gave the order for amnesty, bringing smiles to the faces of those cadets with demerits.)  Ty earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio State. During his active duty, he was a commander in the 82nd Airborne, armored division.