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Event honors MIT military tradition

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Speakers at MIT's annual tri-service Presidential Pass-in-Review, held April 28 on Briggs Field, touched on the strength of military tradition at MIT, from early radar work to the current ROTC program. The Navy-organized event drew about 100 spectators.

Traditionally, the pass-in-review was used by commanders to inspect their troops before battle and to offer them a word of encouragement. Today, pass-in-reviews are used to allow one commander to present his troops to another or to a visiting official.

Admiral Frank L. "Skip" Bowman, director of naval nuclear propulsion, inspected the troops and gave the day's address. Also on the podium were Captain Randall Preston, visiting professor of naval science, and Midshipman Carolyn L. Phillips, a senior in mathematics and master of ceremonies.

Midshipman Joseph Bingold offered a prayer of compassion for Albanian refugees and all those in Kosovo and a petition for guidance: "Make our paths straight; keep us walking in the light." Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow delivered the opening remarks.

"Those of you who haven't been on campus in a while might want to go over to see the remnants of Building 20, where radar was developed during World War II. Building 20 was also the longtime home of our ROTC programs," Chancellor Bacow said.

"In both ways, Building 20 was a symbol of our national service -- something that we are very proud of. You cadets and midshipmen personify our continued service to the nation, and we are proud of you. Equally important to MIT is our tradition that the only things that it takes to succeed here are brains and a willingness to work hard. Indeed, the only basis on which we discriminate at MIT is on performance. That's also a tradition that is represented here today, and we're also proud of you."

Chancellor Bacow nodded in acknowledgement of eight protesters standing quietly in the Kresge parking lot. A banner legible from the reviewing stand read, "Uncle Sam wants you... in the closet." The protesters also held posters and chanted "White, black, gay, straight, why does ROTC discriminate?"

Robert B. McKersie, chairman of the ROTC Oversight Committee and professor emeritus at the Sloan School, also included the protesting group in remarks he made as he accepted a gift of a chronometer from Captain Preston.

"In my three years serving on the Oversight Committee, we've tried to build bridges between ROTC and those represented by the demonstration and to make available opportunities such as leadership courses that noncadets can take. I leave this role with a lot of satisfaction," said Professor McKersie.

Admiral Bowman's address reviewed American military history and portrayed the end of the Cold War and the rise of the "new global neighborhood" as requiring the same singleness of purpose from US military personnel as in the Revolutionary War.

"The fall of the Berlin Wall led misty-eyed optimists to think we'd be able to go back to work in our factories and farms. But in our closely linked global neighborhoods... terrorism, international crime, the drug trade and weapons of mass destruction pose serious threats to our security. So do regional renegades like Saddam and Milosovic, the startling unannounced nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, and now the ongoing tragedy in eastern Europe.

"Our nation is going to need innovators and not just robots. Your task as our future leaders will be critically important. You will join the heroes among the dedicated Cold Warriors, the force in Desert Storm. When the need arises, we will take up arms. When the bell rings, our armed forces must be ready. As we've learned, that bell will ring. Be ready," Admiral Bowman said to the cadets and midshipman.

A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).

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