Over the past year, I have heard many speak about the ephemeral trait known as the “Thunderbird Mystique”. In some corners, it is referred to as a magical trait that T-Birds have. In others, it is our ‘misfit’ nature. Some students are still trying to figure out not only if they have it, but if it is contagious or even a good thing to have. I promise you– if you came to Thunderbird, you likely have it, it is a good thing, and if developed properly, it is contagious.
I am an Army veteran of 10 years. During my time in the military, I worked with a lot of hostile forces, many of whom eventually became my friends. However, I am not referring to enemy combatants. I am referring to fellow soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, and even servicemembers of other nations. Even within the US, we have a wide variety of beliefs and cultures that threatens to separate us. In the military, we are broken down and rebuilt with the understanding that regardless of our differences, those who serve to our left and right will stand by us in times of need–up to and including giving our lives for one another.
During a deployment, I was responsible for working with over 20 different nations to coordinate our missions. Each nation involved was very different and had vastly different preferences on how to run operations. We easily could have divided into 5-10 subgroups to complete the various missions. However, had we subdivided our efforts, we would have failed to complete our common goals. Instead, we worked towards understanding each other, how we could work together, and how we could work around our differences. In the end, our missions were very successful, and we greatly minimized the amount of death and destruction that could have otherwise occurred.
How does that relate back to Thunderbird and the Mystique? It is quite simple. In the military, we come from differing backgrounds, but we hold certain values sacred to each of us. We are willing to sacrifice and work towards achieving those goals. Similarly, at Thunderbird, students come from nearly every imaginable background. Within each , though, is a desire for something more, certain common goals and beliefs. Students come to Thunderbird for many different reasons, but as we leave, we are united by the desire to help each other succeed and overcome the limitations of our cultural lenses.
Many people keep saying we are misfits, but I believe the ideal T-Bird is anything but a misfit I view the ideal T-Bird as a chameleon, everybody’s friend, and as the everyday leader! A T-Bird understands our differences, they understand our lenses, but they also understand our similarities. More importantly, though, they understand how they are perceived by others. This allows them to change or adapt their behaviors to be appropriate for every situation. It enables them to communicate efficiently and effectively with others with very different backgrounds. It allows them to be friendly with people who ordinarily may not like them. It allows them to accomplish missions like mine during deployment and to act as friends instead of as enemies. As every T-Bird knows and believes, “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.”
Anyone who has spent enough time with a veteran group knows they get rowdy and sometimes a little mean with one another. Well, that is because we are different. However, when a crisis arises, when the job calls, we stand in unity with one another to protect each other and the things we hold most dear. Thunderbirds act similarly across many sectors and industries to do the same. We may not always agree on every point, but we will work together where, when, and how we can, to help move forward a belief in a better world. A world with less war, less hate, and less suffering.