Cori is a friend of Phi Tau whose commitment to interfraternalism has led her to many appointments within our community. Cori works tirelessly with fraternity men around the country through national programming like the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute and organization specific leadership programs.
I share stories for a living. Every day, all day, I tell your stories and hear the stories of fraternity men and sorority women. It is an awesome job—the absolute best job I have ever had.
My job has led me to have conversations with men like you that blow my mind. Hours and hours of listening has been the privilege of my life. I’ve picked up on one central truth: Being a young man is hard, hard work. Figuring out what being a man is, how men should serve others, what it means to be a father or a friend. Wow, those conversations have made me struggle with how I can be a better woman and friend to you. I learn from you because of the stories you share. I’ve heard these stories at leadership programs, memorial gatherings, alumni reunions, chartering banquets and conventions for more than a decade.
I believe the story of fraternity is designed to make you nothing short of a cultural hero. Fraternity is designed for you to be an icon of character, chivalry, scholastic and cultural excellence. We create spaces and places in fraternity that are etched so deeply in our collective memories, bound so tightly in the story of our life, that we can simply walk on a college campus and feel what we once felt at age 18 or 21. We create incredible memories that are shared with our best friends. Those stories define us.
Most of the best stories have a hero involved. But don’t take my word for it! According to story-telling expert Kurt Vonnegut, most great stories go something like this:
- Part 1: I am a good person, and the world is a good place. Oh look! Here’s an opportunity for something AMAZING to happen! (The most beautiful girl in the world walks by. The fluxcapacator makes a time machine. I discover I have some kind of superpower.)
- Part 2: I am a good person, and something bad or challenging has befallen me. (The girl has a boyfriend and he looks like Ryan Reynolds and has the money of Mark Zuckerberg. The time machine needs lightening. Yeah, I have a superpower, but so does that other guy over there. And he’s a jerk.)
- Part 3: I am a good person who has decided to be great. I step up and do something amazing. And the world rejoices.
Part 2 is key here. The distance between Part 2 and Part 3 can feel like a freaking minefield. But the men in my life figure out what courage looks like, and they navigate the mines. Deep breaths, one foot in front of the other, they model the way to greatness.
We need you to get to Part 3. Our culture needs you to step up and be a man. We need more men in the world who are living with purpose. Here’s the honest truth.
We need you.
Our world is complicated. We have people who need ethical leadership and demonstrations of exemplary character. People are starving. Wars are being waged. Children are running from danger. Cultures are crumbling. Learning has taken a back seat to survival, and not to freak you out or overwhelm you, but our organizations were founded to elevate the experience of life. We were all founded to fix the problems of the world, using focused attention to some weighty principles.
We still need you.
I see the stories of fraternity men. I’ve been in some. You’ve been in my stories. Let me give you a tip. The best stories of fraternity don’t start standing around a keg. Want to be a hero? Figure out how to craft a story with real bonds, in real environments, where you are called to be a man stone-cold sober.
I don’t know much, but I know what is like to have a fraternity man, a real man give me stone-cold chills from his actions of courage and conviction. I’ve seen fraternity men stand up and decide to lead. I’ve heard the men in my life describe why the chapter they joined, the brothers they trusted have fallen afoul of the fraternity’s mission and purpose, and suggest, bravely, that the group needs to change course. I’ve seen fraternity men explain the vision of an organization with such conviction, I would assume the ghosts of the founders were whispering in his ear. I’ve watched fraternity men serve as pallbearers, best men, honor guards, tutors, battle partners, wakeup calls, motivators, and accountability buddies in each others’ lives.
I’ve watched fraternity men fight, laugh, love and cry together. I’ve seen men step up and do heroic things. No fraternity man is perfect. Not all of those memories are things we are proud of. Some of those memories aren’t the best demonstration of your character. That’s okay. Make amends when needed, take a breath, and move on knowing better. Just do better, because that’s what a man does.
If you are still in school, you may believe this is a bit much.Ask yourself this question.
Does my chapter encourage our members to be fraternity men?
Does your chapter encourage equality? Character? Ethical choices? Am I my best self because I joined Phi Kappa Tau? Is this a place I am proud to bring my family? Will I meet my confidants, colleagues and best friends because of the bonds we are building? Do we serve others? Do we care about improvement? Do we extend our hand to people in need? Do I hold myself and my friends accountable? That’s a man.
And man, we need more of THAT in the world. We need more Phi Kappa Tau. We need more men who step up in the name of the mark of distinction. I know plenty of bros. I know tons of dudes. “Brahs.” We need more brothers in the bond of fraternity. If you’ve see the ritual of Phi Kappa Tau, you have seen and experienced what men look like when they commit to something huge. Every time. You are signing up for something heroic.
The ritual element of fraternity should serve as a reminder that you are a man.
“I shall try always to discharge the obligation to others which arises from the fact that I am a fraternity man.” And thank goodness.
In case you had any doubt what a fraternity man can do to make his life story powerful and heroic, you can take a peek at what you, as fraternity men, have taught me.
A fraternity man reads. A fraternity man reads his ritual, reads the paper, reads books that make no sense and books that speak to exactly where he is in his life. He reads the Bible and the Koran. He reads and gives books away, because words are powerful when used properly.
A fraternity man cares more about his badge than his bow ties. A gentleman in a bow tie or a beautiful suit is a thing to behold. But if you don’t have your badge anymore, or have lost connection to the relationships in fraternity, your bowtie or other marks that you are a gentleman become nothing but a costume. A real fraternity man knows when to humbly serve in a T-shirt and jeans. His badge, even if he’s not wearing it, is a part of his outward appearance because he is living his ritual.
A fraternity man knows the power of family. There is a reason you call the Phi Tau men in your life your “brothers.” A brother, father, son, or husband is a man who has stared commitment down and made some choices. The choice to support your family is the choice of a man. Only your family will be there when things get tough. That’s why we love to see you get married or have a child. You’ve made a choice to expand your family. Powerful stuff.
A fraternity man grieves when things are lost. Grief and sadness, closure and farewell are all a part of the fraternity story. As a fraternity man, saying goodbye should be something you learn how to do. A real man says goodbye like a gentleman, with mutual respect, because he honors the fact that things end.
A fraternity man knows how to love. Real love, the love of a person or an institution is unselfish and ego-free. It liberates and does not hold. The love of a fraternity man is more than a song and more than words on a page. The love of a fraternity man is demonstrated by his actions. Love liberally and in an unguarded way. Love will find you when you most need it. A real man loves with intention, and fraternity is tied by the actions of men who loved the potential of brotherhood. That potential speaks to us even today, and that is because of love.
A fraternity man will never treat another human like they are worth less, or worthless. A real fraternity man is humble, hardworking, and uses his letters to elevate other people, rather than look down on those who are not a part of his personal circle. The mark of a boy is someone who puts other people who are unfamiliar down. There is simply no excuse to denigrate others.
A fraternity man knows that ritual and purpose give rise to greatness. We don’t want you to be normal. We expect you to be great. Those expectations exist because of the ritual of your organization. The ritual is powerful. It is constructed to push you to rise up and serve others at a level most men will never see. The purpose in your story will make you a hero if you let it.
We’re holding out for a hero. I’m thinking that hero could be you.
Cori Wallace – Delta Gamma Fraternity
Proud wife of a fraternity man. Proud sister to a fraternity man. Proud friend to countless fraternity men.