At the Naval Academy, a Lyrical Change
By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2004; Page B05
"Navy Blue & Gold" is the sober, solemn school song of the U.S. Naval Academy, performed at athletic events and graduations for the last 81 years.
Now college men from sea to sea may sing of colors true,
But who has better right than we to hoist a symbol hue:
For sailor men in battle fair since fighting days of old
Have proved the sailor's right to wear the Navy Blue & Gold. . . .
The men of the academy may continue to sing of colors true and prove their right to wear Navy blue and gold, but those men have officially disappeared from the lyrics. Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, academy superintendent, has snipped them from the school's alma mater, saying that the traditional wording unintentionally excluded women from the school's heritage.
The song will now begin: Now colleges from sea to sea may sing of colors true. The third line will read: For sailors brave in battle fair since fighting days of old.
"Without changing the meaning of the song, these words make our Alma Mater inclusive of all who cherish it," Rempt said in a written statement issued by the school's public affairs office. "This is a decision consistent with our values."
The revised song will receive its trial run at the academy's graduation ceremony May 28. The change was first reported by the Annapolis Capital newspaper Tuesday afternoon.
Rumors of the change have circulated among the 4,200-strong Brigade of Midshipmen for some time, a graduating midshipman said. They were officially told of the revisions Tuesday evening by the school's commandant, Capt. Charles J. Leidig Jr.
The midshipman, who spoke under condition of anonymity because midshipmen are not allowed to speak to the media without the permission of their superiors, said most classmates he had spoken to were indifferent to the change.
"It is a song. What difference does it really make?" the midshipman said. "If they believe there are inequalities at the academy, that we're leaving women out or something -- and I don't think there are -- then changing two words in a song might be the wrong place to be doing it. That might be like putting a bucket of water on a house fire."
Women were first admitted to the academy in 1976 and now account for slightly less than 15 percent of the student body. All the service academies have received close scrutiny in the past year, after women attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs reported several instances of sexual assault and harassment.
Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, the Naval Academy's spokesman, said the change in the lyrics was not the result of those events.
"The superintendent has been discussing this for some time," Gibbons said. "He's been very clear that the change was not made in response to any external pressure or internal pressure."
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