Held annually, the Citadel Patriot Dinner is hosted by the Citadel Republican Society in Charleston, South Carolina. The dinner supports the cadets of the Citadel Republican Society and their annual trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.. Every year since 2008, the Citadel has sent the single largest school delegation to the conference, which gathers over 13,000 conservatives from across the country.
Each year the highly anticipated Patriot Dinner honors a national, state, or local official who embodies the selfless leadership of Nathan Hale. Executed by the British at age 21, Nathan Hale famously said, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country.” Honorees receive the “Nathan Hale Patriot Award,” a massive revolutionary war musket beautifully mounted for display.
At the 2014 dinner, the cadets also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and paid tribute to the Greatest Generation by hosting nearly 20 WWII veterans as honored guests.
Two scholarships are also awarded at the dinner: the Henry E. Brown Republican Workhorse Award, presented annually to the cadet who has worked the hardest for the Republican cause in Charleston, and the Barrett-Buyer Republican Scholarship, named for the Honorable Congressman Gresham Barrett and the Honorable Congressman Steve Buyer, both Citadel graduates.
The Barrett-Buyer award is given to a member of the Republican Society who has shown leadership both in the club and in the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. Both awards are presented with a scholarship check.
An excerpt from a Newsweek/BuzzFeed Article about The Patriot Dinner:
“The Citadel, the famous military college here in Charleston, is a place where I would have lasted about four minutes when I was 18… We do not inhabit similar moral universes, let us say. And yet—and yet—I was oddly affected by Friday night’s Patriot Dinner… There was a sincerity about the event, the kind of sincerity that, when you’ve covered 4,000 of these things, takes you by literal physiological surprise; your body reacts in a different way, your brain receptors don’t feel half-crushed to catatonia in the way they typically do at a political event, and the live half of your brain notices it, and you start wondering why.
The Patriot Dinner, which is held every year, a young cadet explained to me, even when heretics like myself aren’t around, honors someone considered a great American from the Citadel’s perspective. That perspective is pretty ideologically hard core. As a young cadet onstage limned the accomplishments of the campus Republican club (the largest in the state, a later speaker noted with pride), I asked another cadet, I don’t guess there’s a campus Democratic club. Sir, he said politely, I doubt that you would find more than four or five Democrats on this campus… What I do care about is seeing a spark of feeling in politics that goes beyond ideology and beyond even “commitment,” but into a place where our political selves and our real and full human selves collide. It is a far rarer sight than you’d think. Or maybe it isn’t far rarer than you’d think. Whichever the case, I saw it Friday night, and I wish it weren’t so rare.”
– Michael Tomasky – Special National Political Correspondent for Newsweek