Steve Talley 0

Dick Cheatham as JTL Preston

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Whereas Richard (Dick) Cheatham, VMI Class of 1970, has presented thousands of portrayals of important American historical figures all over the United States and internationally for many audiences, including several at VMI, and

Whereas Mr. Cheatham uses a particularly effective, performance-based method to deliver entertaining and accurate glimpses of these prominent historical figures, and

Whereas, Mr. Cheatham’s lessons are centered on leadership, especially citizen leadership, an important VMI foundational principle, and

Whereas Mr. Cheatham’ s presentations include one that informs audiences of the first fifty years of the history of the Virginia Military Institute and a close and fact based portrayal of John Thomas Lewis (JTL) Preston, one of the Institute’s founders, and, in fact, its principal founder, and

Whereas Mr. Cheatham portrayed JTL Preston in Lexington in September 2021 at the fiftieth reunion of the VMI Class of 1970 for his Brother Rats and other invited guests and was very well received, surprising many in attendance with important things about VMI that they did not know, and

Whereas, in his portrayal of JTL Preston, Mr. Cheatham speaks about Preston’s remarkable vision for VMI. Not a college, not a university, but an Institute, with core principles laid out in the Inscription on the Parapet, an inscription that talks about the citizen soldier, honor, duty, leadership, community and character, an inscription that Preston wrote as his vision for the school years before VMI even existed, an inscription that to this very day holds the VMI community fast to those core principles and informs visitors to VMI of the profoundly important ideas that have guided VMI alumni forward since its beginning in 1839, and

Whereas JTL Preston’s had a vision for a unique educational experience. He persuaded others to consider his vision and help found VMI. He worked tirelessly during those first fifty years to build the Institute’s system and keep it from failing. His persistence and hard work are the pivotal keys to VMI’s very existence, then and now, and

Whereas Mr. Cheatham brings JTL Preston to life as he does some of Preston’s friends and colleagues of that time, and imparts a deeper understanding of a twenty eight-year-old visionary who set the stage for the founding of VMI, and

Whereas none of us who are alumni remember being taught much about VMI's early founding or of the pivotal contributions of founder JTL Preston other than being required to memorize Preston's quotation on the parapet and knowing that the Institute's library was Preston Library, and

Whereas Mr. Cheatham’s portrayal of JTL Preston reminds us of VMI’s unchanging core principles and of the great value VMI offers to Virginia, America, and the world, and

Whereas new incoming classes at VMI would benefit enormously from Mr. Cheatham’s portrayal of JTL Preston, to the extent that they will be handed a legacy of which they can be proud and one worth protecting and growing, and

Now, therefore, be it resolved that signers to this petition urge VMI Leadership to consider inviting Mr. Cheatham to give this year’s rat class and all future rat classes as well as for other Institute events his Preston portrayal and synopsis of VMI’s first fifty years, as part of their inculcation and orientation to the Institute. This will be time well spent for new cadets as they learn about VMI’s roots and commitment to honor, duty, and excellence as well as the fundamentally important role of the citizen soldier.

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