THIS SHALL BE MY PURPOSE
The following post was written by Danielle Lefevre Willis, Alpha Beta–University of Michigan. A 1992 initiate of Alpha Gam, Danielle is a Colonel and the Vice Commander of the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. Government. To read her official U.S. Air Force bio, click here.
As a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, I’ve been to many seminars on leadership, but the one I was attending this day was different. Amidst the discussions of goals, grit and leadership style, the moderator posed a simple question– What is your purpose?
I must admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve been involved in Alpha Gamma Delta. As an active duty military member, I am rarely stationed in a location with an alumnae chapter and never seemed to have time to connect with sisters outside my core group of chapter sisters. So, it was a surprise to me that when posed with the question, my first thought was–to welcome the opportunity of contributing to the world’s work in the community where I am placed because of the joy of service thereby bestowed and the talent of leadership multiplied.
There it was 27 years after my Initiation. The first words I thought of were from the Alpha Gamma Delta Purpose, having long since neglected to have it memorized. After the session, I dug up an old photocopy of the Purpose from my collegiate scrapbook and reflected on my life and military career. I found that Alpha Gamma Delta has been silently guiding me since my undergraduate days.
TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING THAT WIDSOM MAY BE VOUCHSAFED TO ME.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, I was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. I attended flight navigator training and later pilot training. I flew combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. I learned about military operations, command and control. As I matured in my career, I studied strategy and geopolitics. Now I’m a doctoral candidate in Public Administration at Valdosta State University. I have never lost my thirst for knowledge.
TO DEVELOP AND PRIZE HEALTH AND VIGOR OF BODY.
In the military, we are expected to be fit, but fitness isn’t just a job requirement for me. It’s stress relief and a way to stay connected to my sisters. Running half-marathons with two sisters from my new member class has been a tradition of ours for at least ten years. We stay connected through fitness.
TO CULTIVATE ACQUAINTANCE WITH MANY WHOM I MEET.
Cultivating acquaintances is a virtual requirement in military life. My family has moved 14 times over the course of my career. We’ve been stationed as far away as Korea and Germany and as close to home as Oklahoma and Texas. In five overseas deployments, I’ve met and worked with an impressive array of people in every service and from many North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other allied nations.
TO CHERISH FRIENDSHIPS WITH BUT A CHOSEN FEW AND TO STUDY THE PERFECTING OF THOSE FRIENDSHIPS.
As a young woman, this line made me feel uneasy. I felt it was somewhat unkind to not seek deep friendships with most of my acquaintances. After all, more friends meant more love, right? Now, I understand the wisdom of our Founders when they specified the need for perfecting friendships with a chosen few. Unconsciously, I’ve adopted this principle in my life. My “nook” sisters, named after the corner of the Alpha Beta house where our rooms were clustered, are a remarkable group of accomplished women with whom I’ve cultivated lifelong friendships. We count two lawyers, a quality systems engineer, a renowned food blogger and author, an occupational therapist, an entrepreneur, a minister and myself in our midst. We’re also mothers, wives, sisters, friends and volunteers. I’ve also kept close connection with my sisters who also entered military service, and the one who gave me my first salute as a lieutenant was there when I was promoted to colonel 21 years later.
TO WELCOME THE OPPORTUNITY OF CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD’S WORK IN THE COMMUNITY WHERE I AM PLACED BECAUSE OF THE JOY OF SERVICE THEREBY BESTOWED AND THE TALENTS OF LEADERSHIP MULTIPLIED.
This line summarizes my passion for service, not just in the military, but in life. I grew up in scouting, solidified my love of service as an Alpha Gam undergraduate and continue to make it my life’s work. My goal is to make the world a better place through daily acts of service.
TO HONOR MY HOME, MY COUNTRY, MY RELIGIOUS FAITH.
These values are consistent with military service and motherhood. My goal is to start with the home, build an environment of love for my husband and children, serve my country in the military and let my faith guide me in my daily life.
TO HOLD TRUTH INVIOABLE, SINCERITY ESSENTIAL AND KINDNESS INVALUABLE.
Truth, sincerity, kindness—essential concepts to navigating the modern world as a mother, leader and citizen. They cannot be overstated.
TO COVET BEAUTY IN ENVIRONMENT, MANNER, WORD, AND THOUGHT.
This is surprisingly important in a military career. I am a leader in an organization whose mission is combat operations. It is difficult and complex and necessary to protect our freedoms. But often, our Airmen find themselves disconnected from friends and family, suffering from PTSD and other effects from multiple deployments to combat zones. Capturing the beauty in connection, family and environment is crucial to my mental health and the health of those in my charge.
TO POSSESS HIGH IDEALS AND TO ATTAIN SOMEWHAT UNTO THEM.
As a collegiate member, I thought our Founders got this line of the Purpose wrong. Why wouldn’t you want to attain all your ideals? Shouldn’t you strive for perfection? But as I watch my children grow, lead young military men and women and challenge myself, I realize that our Founders gave us permission to try and fail. They built grit into the Purpose, recognizing that we can’t attain perfection, yet we should always strive for high ideals and take what comes with grace.
THIS SHALL BE MY PURPOSE THAT THOSE WHO KNOW ME MAY ESTEEM ALPHA GAMMA DELTA FOR HER ATTAINMENTS, REVERE HER FOR HER PURPOSES, AND LOVE HER FOR HER WOMANHOOD.
The last line always elicited a snicker from my 20-year-old self. I was uncomfortable with the concept of womanhood. Personhood, sure. But womanhood felt like it was old-fashioned and unnecessarily set me apart from my male-dominated engineering major and military career. I was interested in fitting in and getting through, not standing out. Now that I’m taking command of three thousand, mostly male, service members, I realize that my womanhood brings an important perspective to my leadership. My experiences as an Alpha Gam, as a mother, as a daughter striving to care for an aging parent and as a sister, bring a much-needed measure of compassion and even vulnerability to our organization.
This is my purpose. I believe that those who know me esteem me for my attainments, revere me for my purposes and, yes, love me for my womanhood.