I often share a story from my military experience to illustrate how international friendship may enable world changing projects. History is filled with examples of such friendships – Roosevelt and Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. There are friendships, though not as famous, that have quietly shaped history. After September 11, 2001, I found myself in the Pentagon as a contingency planner. I reached out to friends serving in the militaries of other nations to help shape the support that we needed to build a $220 million airbase. Without shaping the little things, we would have been challenged to accomplish the big things. The importance of friendships across national borders becomes more important every day. Whether social, business, political, or military, multi-cultural friendships make us all stronger and safer. Oak Ridge Military Academy provides a unique opportunity to experience an international community, learn first-hand the customs and culture of others. I was not privileged to have such valuable opportunities until I was a 25-year old Army captain.
The multi-cultural advantages of a place like Oak Ridge Military Academy include firsthand knowledge of how others live their lives, as well as sharing experiences to build a common community that transcends ethnicities and national borders. Pride in one’s heritage and respect for others enhances a deeper pride and respect in humanity as a whole. Knowledge reduces fear and suspicion caused by the unknown. It reduces the power of cynics and the negativity of self-interests. It enlightens and frees well-informed students to critically consider what they know from experience rather than relying on what they are told by biased third parties. Each of our students realizes that he has his own unique strengths and weaknesses, but shares many common dreams with fellow students from around the world.
There are disadvantages of a multi-cultural community. In the beginning things are uncomfortable. As is true in any new relationship, prejudices and unknowns must be identified and dealt with appropriately. In the beginning, we form together as individuals. Each Cadet has his or her own history, opinions, and preferences. As those histories, opinions, and preferences rub up against one another, the friction results in a storm. For many, including myself, we tend to avoid conflict and retreat from the storm. This leaves unresolved conflict that often sticks its head out at the most inconvenient time. However, we encourage Cadets to stay the course through the storm. Learn to identify and resolve the conflict. In the resolution and reconciliation, we learn that each of us have strengths to bring to the relationship. We also have our own weaknesses. The power of team work is revealed when you offer your strengths to compensate for my weaknesses and I return the favor by shoring up your weaknesses with my strengths. We build new cultural norms. The result of form, storm, and norm is a team able to perform amazing tasks and achieve great things. At Oak Ridge Military Academy, we work through these challenges with four steps to team building. While the hard work required to do multi-cultural community building may initially appear to be a disadvantage, the pay-off is great.
The ORMA Experience
At Oak Ridge Military Academy we embrace the opportunity to blend our multi-cultural community through the Form – Storm – Norm – Perform dynamics. Because of this, we invite international students to share their experiences as they learn American culture. Likewise, we benefit from them and learn their values first hand. It is a unique opportunity when the world has come to Oak Ridge!
Where do you fit? Is this something that you value? Contact our Advancement Office now to learn how you can benefit from the ORMA Experience. Call 336-643-4131 and ask for Laura, Frank, or Bob. We are “Promoting Leadership Values of Character, Knowledge, and Influence.”
Written by Dr. Danny G. Nobles