I think I’ve moved past the tears enough to actually put these thoughts to word. I’m not sure, but here it goes anyway.
Florida State University—my alma mater—is so much more than just a university. It’s more than just a culture. Florida State has something no other Florida university does—it has a connection to some of the strongest people in North American History. That connection isn’t even fully understood by the majority of Seminole students, but it’s there just the same. The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida State University have been connected by tradition for years, and no other school can offer that. It might seem benign, but don’t let yourself be fooled. The Seminole Wars—yes, they existed—are not commonly taught in American History classes. Why? Because it was Andrew Jackson, Florida’s first governor, who led the American troops into that battle, but the Seminole Tribe never gave up. That’s where the “Unconquered” name comes from. The Seminoles were unconquered through all three Seminole Wars, and Osceola had a huge part in that. We still have Seminole Tribe leaders who are active in the university community—sometimes they show up for our ceremonies to give their support.
The “Trail of Tears,” remember that from elementary school? The Seminoles resisted the forced relocation by the American Government. Did you think Osceola, the “War Chant,” and the spear were just dreamt by a university PR official? No chance. Every symbol of Florida State, right down to the Appaloosa horse Osceola rides at halftime is indicative of this enormous, although unseen connection to the Tribe. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has eight distinct clans, and here’s an interesting tidbit—at least two other Florida universities have “mascots” that are indicative of these clans. The Miami Hurricanes can be resembled to the “Wind Clan,” and the Florida A&M University “Rattler” can be resembled to the “Snake Clan.” Now I’m not saying these schools were knowingly named after a Seminole clan, but it shows how deeply rooted the Seminoles are in Florida culture; they are so deeply rooted that most Floridians (who are transplanted from elsewhere) don’t realize the connections.
There’s more to Florida State than just a strong, personal connection between university and tribe. There’s something about the student demeanor—perhaps something in the water? I’ve been to Gainesville; I’ve been to Tampa, Miami, Pensacola and Orlando. I’ve never experienced a student body so friendly and immediately welcoming as the Florida State community. I remember walking onto the FSU campus for the first time; I was holding a map up—obviously confused about where I was. Someone walked up to me and asked where I was headed. They never introduced themselves or expected anything in return but showed me where I needed to go. I’ve not experienced that at ANY other university campus I’ve been to. The University of Alabama, Columbia University, New York University or any Florida university. There’s something special about Seminole students.
Seminole students are taught the importance of life and pursuing their dreams. Hell, there is a speaker at each year’s new student orientation that teaches Seminoles to “live the dream.” His name is Curtis Zimmerman, and he means it. In this orientation session he teaches an entire room of students that they can do things they’ve told themselves they can’t. He teaches an entire 1,000-person room to juggle. I mean that seriously. Even if it’s only one time, every person in that room juggles three balls. There is a connectedness among students at FSU that I’ve never found anywhere else. Maybe it’s “Seminole Pride.” No; you know what? It is Seminole Pride.
I remember I used to think I was a “Gator” in high school because a few of my good friends were set on attending UF. My dad was a UA alumnus, and my mom didn’t finish college, but I was a Seminole. I didn’t know it then, but once I set foot on that campus I knew it. Instantaneously. There was no denying that was where I was meant to be. There’s something about that little section of Tallahassee, Fla. Like I said, maybe it’s the water, but there’s definitely a very strong community there. University administrators see you as more than just a “number.” I mean, I became good friends—seriously!—with FSU’s president, Eric J. Barron.
Let me talk about the music. The “World Renowned Florida State University Marchiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing Chiefs” are a phenomenal group of instrumentalists. On top of that, they are part of this community too, and that becomes really evident when you see an 86,000-person stadium filled with the sound of the “War Chant” and 86,000 arms doing the chop. It’s an amazing sight to see.
I’m not saying Florida State University is the best university in the country, but it’s my university. I can’t ever deny that.
It will always be my alma mater.
High o’er the towering pines
our voices swell.
Praising those Gothic spires
we love so well.
Here sons and daughters stand
faithful and true
Hailing our alma mater