Most holiday messages reference family, warmth, joy, and wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year ahead. But given where we are this year, I found myself thinking more deeply; about the nature of gratitude, the nature of what it means to be together, and about our Brotherhood.
For many, if not most, 2020 has been a challenging year, and this holiday season is shaping up to be unlike any experienced in most of our lifetimes. With the ongoing pandemic, many will have to make difficult choices about whether or not to be with our loved ones this month, choices that will be dictated by circumstances far beyond our control. Some of us will be making these choices while also grappling with the pain of a loss at the hands of this pandemic. For some it has been the loss of a job or the loss of financial security; for others it has been the loss of the sense of the safety and normalcy to which many of us have grown accustomed; and for still others, it will be the loss of a friend, colleague, or loved one. While some of those losses are more tangible than others, they are all real.
For our student members, the day-to-day experience of membership in Theta Tau has changed. Instead of barbecues and volleyball games and in person video game tournaments, our recruitment events take place in grids on computer screens. Instead of going out into the community to perform community service, we are relegated to virtual service events that, while still beneficial and in service to our mission, lack the sense of satisfaction and joy that comes from actually seeing the people we are helping. Most poignantly, instead of practicing our Ritual in fellowship together, we find ourselves performing a sanitized version, devoid of thevivid narrative we’re used to, and stripped of the Fraternal secrets that cement our bond with one another.
Even so, Theta Tau welcomed more than 450 potential new members this fall across the Fraternity, and that was with half of our chapters not taking a class. We saw chapters employ great ingenuity in seamlessly transitioning to a virtual programming model, proving that our brotherhood is not one that will be held back by circumstance. And we saw connections between brothers remade, as long-lost brothers joined homecoming and Founders Day celebrations from across the country and around the globe by virtue of our newfound virtual settings.
So, this holiday season, I am thankful for Theta Tau. I am thankful for my membership and for the opportunities afforded to me by the position of leadership in which you have placed me. I am thankful for my brothers, both those student members who are doing the work of this Fraternity on the ground, and those alumni who are carrying our values into the engineering community. And I am thankful that, even during these difficult and unprecedented times, Theta Tau has continued to work towards our mission and shared goals.
Early on in the pandemic we spent a lot of time talking about essential businesses, essential services and essential employees. If there’s one thing that I have learned during this pandemic it is that, now more than ever, our Brotherhood is essential.
I send my best wishes for a happy holiday season, I wish good health and good fortune to you and your loved ones, and I can’t wait until we can all be together again at chapter, at Regional Conferences and at our National Convention this summer.
Jamey Vann, XXX!