Christopher C. Harmon
Enrolling in International Relations—not Government—at the Claremont Graduate School, I was intent on making I.R. my principal field and since then always have. But the choice concerned my wiser friends, who coached me on the I.R. school director's political bent deep into left field. As I began to meet that man's students, this became all too clear. Perhaps it would indeed be better to switch into the Government Department, where one could focus on foreign affairs and security issues but study in a healthier environment.
While I wondered and waffled, a fellow student walked me over to Claremont McKenna College to sit in on a class by a certain Dr. Rood. Later I got to meet the professor. There was a vivid contrast between the lecturer's teachings on power, war, and politics—on the one hand—and his graciousness and subtlety in a first meeting with a new student. We had a talk. Dr. Rood knew I'd enrolled in the I.R. Department, and as we parted he said with earnest politeness, "Well, if you ever want another perspective, come and take a course over on this side of the street."
Such class. He would not criticize another department directly, or deprecate anyone personally—even though he was famed for ability in public debate over public issues.
It was enough to merely hint at the differences and suggest that I might learn more with him. I would, and did. The Government Department was the better home.
Christopher C. Harmon is the Horner Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University, and the lead editor of Toward a Grand Strategy Against Terrorism (McGraw-Hill).
In an academy filled with international relations gobbledygook, Prof. Rood's approach of understanding the world around you before purporting to explain it was most refreshing. His relentless way of challenging the conventional wisdom and advancing alternative theories to what the "experts" held true produced not only a corpus of original writing but also a cadre of students trained to think independently of the fashionable ideas that dominate the discipline. Professor Rood "taught" a great many fascinating things but his true genius was in training the mind for independent thought. His teaching exemplified the old saying that "an education is what you have after you forget all the facts."
J.D. Crouch served in the George H.W. Bush Administration as assistant secretary of defensefor international security policy,and in the George W. Bush Administration as U.S. ambassador to Romania, assistant to the president, and deputy national security advisor.
Christopher Flannery and Peter W. Schramm
We were having hot fudge sundaes and talking about the world—the world of politics, which with the professor always ultimately became the world of war. It was the early 1970s and there was plenty of war to go around, but we were talking of old wars. As always with the good professor, the subject was riveting. It was about life and death, keeping your freedom or losing it. The stakes could not be higher, and there was no house limit on the betting. There were desperate dangers and unseen opportunities and fateful choices always to be made. There was need for heroes and a surplus of fools. It was an endlessly interesting world, whose mysteries could only be unraveled by the most intrepid thinking—thinking that must strip away the veils of orthodoxy to see things for what they are.
The professor had just finished discoursing about the battle of Actium or of the Somme or about the challenges of training pilots for the RAF in 1940. There was a pause. We were looking down in sober thought at our dwindling sundaes—we never had hot fudge sundaes except with him—when we began to hear familiar words. They came from the professor, who sat across from us in the old red Naugahyde booth. In muted voice he was reciting from memory famous lines from the St. Crispin's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,...
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Tears came to him as he spoke, and so they came to us. And we thought we knew he wasn't just talking about old wars, but about our country's wars, the wars he and a happy band of brothers were most concerned to understand and to win.
We finished our sundaes and he paid the check as he always did.
Christopher Flannery, a founder of the Claremont Institute, is professor of politics and director of the Humanities Program at Azusa Pacific University, and a senior editor of the Claremont Review of Books.
Peter W. Schramm, a founder and former president of the Claremont Institute, is professor of political science and director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.
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Colleen A. Sheehan
When I first met Professor Rood I felt as if I had stepped back into the 1940s. As one of a few women who studied political philosophy and occasionally diplomatic and military history at Claremont, I remember having to get used to being treated with the old world civility and charm that marked his manners. Whenever I walked into a (non-classroom) setting in which Dr. Rood was present, he would stand and make a slight bow (it was slight, I suppose, because his posture was rather a forward tilt and slump to begin with) and issue a "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon, Miss Sheehan." One could hear chairs scraping and smudging the floor as Dr. Rood performed the ritual of civilized society's good manners, for there was not a man in the room who would dare not rise to the standard he set. Needless to say, I managed somehow to get used to such polite treatment, as least for the time I spent in Claremont.
Behind the good doctor's self-deprecating slouch was a satirical wit and spirited vitality that was anything but indifferent. Perhaps it was because he cared so deeply and immeasurably about his country and his fellow citizens, and because he saw so much more keenly than others the seriousness of the dangers that confront us, that in his leisure time he took great pleasure in nonsense and absurdities. I doubt that there is a student of his who cannot recall him recounting some hilarious scene or other from Monty Python. With perfect memory and dramatic pause, with undulating pitch and an actor's tenor, with mischievous smile and clipped voice, he would recite a passage or two.
Professor Rood sometimes found deception in promises, absurdity in seriousness, and the most critical things in piles of the mundane. He never missed a beat. He urged his students to do the same, to attend to the odd diplomatic remark reported in the news, to the apparently illogical change of location by some submarine, or even to the altered insignia on a silver or gold coin in the 14th century.
Dr. Rood had few if any illusions in life. But what he did have, without qualification, was a country he called his own—and students who were honored to call him theirs.
Colleen A. Sheehan is professor of political science at Villanova University and director of the Ryan Center for Free Institutions and the Public Good.
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William R. Van Cleave
I am fortunate to have had a long personal and professional association with Bill Rood, starting at Claremont Graduate School in 1962 and proceeding to Stanford Research Institute, the University of Southern California, Missouri State University, and even seminars at Kiel University. That is nearly 50 years of continuing education for me.
I may not have earned a Ph.D. were it not for Professor Rood's influence, encouragement, and approach to teaching. He was the one graduate professor I had who focused on an understanding of the "real world" of international relations, geo-strategy, and military affairs without pulling punches. In fact when it came time to schedule my dissertation defense, four professors on my committee were quite satisfied, but the fifth balked, saying I wasn't ready. Bill offered him a punch in the nose. The defense was held as scheduled.
I owe a lot to Bill Rood, including our long time friendship, but so do hundreds of his students. Bill's teaching influenced them forever, if not by its substance then by the high standards he set. Meticulous research, the ability to see importance in what might otherwise seem to be unrelated or unimportant events, precision in thinking and writing were expected. Above all, Bill taught us to never stop searching, researching, and learning. His principle was that knowledge and intelligence are what we continually seek, and not necessarily what we have.
He also taught, both by example and by extensive written comments on student papers, the necessity of precision and clarity and of proper grammar and syntax in writing. Common or popular use of words and sloppy writing are ubiquitous in academia (not to mention government). A cynical person—much like Dr. Rood—might even say it is preferred. But by the time of my Ph.D., under his prodding I had practically memorized H.B. Fowler.
No one could distill the essence of international relations and political-military matters better than Bill. I thought he should write his own Politics Among Nations.
His usual response to dubious propositions on international relations was to listen, nodding as if in agreement, say "Yeah, well...," and then offer a uniquely Roodian alternative that was both surprising and devastating.
Bill's friendship was as strong as his teaching. One could count on it. If someone would try to tell me that there was a better teacher or friend, I would have to say "Yeah, well...."
William R. Van Cleave is a former advisor to President Ronald Reagan, the United States Department of Defense, and Department of State; and emeritus professor, former head, and the founder of Missouri State University's Department of Defense and Strategic Studies.