T.J. Sullivan

You are always wearing your letters

You’re interested in joining our fraternity? We’d love to have you. You’re the type of person we look for: committed, enthusiastic, a leader. We think you’ll do great things here, and we hope that we’ll open some doors for you. You will make lifelong friendships, and hopefully, you’ll be the type of person whose positive impact will be felt here for many years.

This is the start of something really cool.
We know you have your reasons for joining, and we also know that the reasons you’ll stay will be entirely different. Trust us on that one. People tend to join for the image, the props, and the social stuff. They stay around for the friendships and because they find a place where they can impact the lives of others. It’s a family. We know this. Soon, you will, too.
Soon, these letters will be yours. But, there’s one lesson that we need to impress upon you before you sign your name on the dotted line, pay that first fee, and get that first t-shirt. It’s the single most important thing we’re going to ask of you, so you need to listen and understand it, now, before you say “yes.”
It’s the one most important thing that any fraternity or sorority can impress upon its new members. It’s the one lesson that every group must impress upon its newest members. Truly, our survival as an organization on this campus, and nationwide, depends on you understanding this one simple lesson and taking it to heart.
It’s more important than our history, our traditions, our structure, or our rules. Because, if you don’t understand this most fundamental lesson, then none of the other stuff will matter. If you don’t get this one “golden rule of fraternity,” then your son or daughter won’t have this kind of organization to join someday, and all of this will just be a fuzzy memory.
Here it is. Ready?
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your letters.

I’m going to repeat it.
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your letters.

We’re not talking about t-shirts, or sweatshirts, or hats made in the colors of the group. We’re not talking about a tattoo on your ankle, some party favor, or a badge you wear on your dress shirt.
What we mean is that when you say yes to lifetime membership in this group, everything you say, do and represent from that moment forward is a direct reflection on this group, your brothers, and the thousands of members who have come before you. Everything you put out to the world is a direct reflection of this fraternity. Every decision, every achievement, every mistake you make happens to all of us from this point forward.
When you go to the grocery store, you represent us. If you fall asleep in class or earn a weak grade, you represent us. When you drive down the road and slow down so a pedestrian can cross the street, you represent us.
When you turn 21 and hit the town, you represent us. When you become a leader of another campus organization, you represent us. When you insult someone or talk badly about another fraternity, you represent us. When you break up with someone and make decisions about how you behave during that difficult time, you represent us. When you go on Spring Break, you represent us.
When you go home and sit at your mother’s dining room table, you represent us. When you get a job and go to work for a company or organization, you represent us. When you commit your life to that special person, someday, you represent us.
You are always wearing your letters.
From this day forward, always. Every day, in every situation. They never come off.
As surely as if you tattooed these letters on your forehead. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a jersey with our name on it, or a business suit at an interview. You have to assume that every person you meet will form a permanent opinion about fraternities – good or bad – based on how you interact with them. Every good thing you do builds us up. Every dumb thing you do tears us down.
We live in a time when the actions of one man or one woman can kill a group like ours. One person who acts in a way that is inconsistent with our shared values can end a hundred years of tradition and pride. One choice you make on a Friday night can take away everything that generations of men have worked to build.
All the stuff you see that belongs to us can be boxed up or thrown out, because of the choices you make.
If this seems a little intense, that’s good. Because it’s serious. If it sounds like too much responsibility, or if you don’t think you can behave in a way that reflects well on us at all times, then walk away now. Do us the favor. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we’ll thank you. This sort of commitment isn’t for everybody.
But, don’t say yes unless you understand.
We’re not asking you to give up anything. We aren’t asking you to become something you aren’t. We’re asking you to become something more. We’re inviting you to become part of a group of men who make a promise to take care of each other, every day. We’re asking you to become the very best version of you that you can be.
We’re asking you to take a leap of maturity and to go to that place where you’re the same, honorable, dignified person on Saturday night as you are on Tuesday morning.
It’s a big deal, and not everyone can do it. Forget everything you’ve heard up to this point. Forget how much you might desire this, or how much we might want to bring you into the group. Just clear your mind and ask yourself one question.
Are you ready to never take them off?

Because when you say yes, you’re not just putting letters on a sweatshirt. You’re putting them in your heart. You’re forever stamping your identity with them. Everything you are, from this point on, becomes who we are.
You will make mistakes, and brothers will remind you of your commitment. There will be times where you will see other brothers forgetting their promise, and you’ll need to remind them. That’s part of this whole “fraternity” thing. We work together to make ourselves better men who stand for something. We carry each other. We matter to one another.
If we’re doing fraternity right, then we’ll make you a better man. If you’re doing everything right, then you will make us a better organization. So, please think about it. Take it seriously. Because if you say yes, these letters belong to you as surely as they belonged to our founders. If you say yes, these letters become your responsibility forever.
That’s the promise.

47 Responses to “You are always wearing your letters”

  1. Joey De Jarnett says:

    This is one of the greatest articles I have read in a long time. I really love the seriousness it puts on a person to withhold to ones fraternity and organization. I am impressed with the heaviness of the article and this definitely makes me proud to call myself a Fraternity Man.

  2. Brian Roberts says:

    Thank you. Just what I needed to read. Thank you so much.

  3. Ashley says:

    This is definitely something that pledges should read. Some of them don’t take the commitment seriously and fink out on the organization. I am proud of my letters and proud to wear them, literally and figuratively. ΚΩΧ always and forever :)

  4. Big A says:

    WOW!All Greeks should read this!

  5. MTH says:

    The flip side needs to told. If your organization leadership steals money that a reflection on you. If your national president is in the news for breaking the law that is arefelection on you. If you fraternity or sorority spends more money on a 100 year celbration then helping the porr that is a reflection on you. Greekdom is treated as one way street. But the truth is that you have little to no say in how your organization is run and the reflection it will have on your life regardless of how hard you try.

  6. That’s a really interesting point. Yes, your organization’s behavior definitely reflects on you as well. EXCELLENT point. I certainly have not always been in lock-step agreement with my organization’s decisions. But, of course, I am an active volunteer in the organization, so I don’t feel completely helpless in shaping the actions of my national group. Thanks so much for pointing out the other perspective on this! TJS

  7. Leo says:

    “But the truth is that you have little to no say in how your organization is run and the reflection it will have on your life regardless of how hard you try”

    Not true i joined a fraternity, quite a large 1 at that (70+). I didn’t like the way things were going, neither did my pledge class. We took over 5/9 Executive positions and then saw things go our way…

  8. Nick says:

    @Leo I think @MTH’s point was the national organization more so than the local chapter.

  9. Clifford E. Jones says:

    Greetings to All,
    I am considering an application to this organization, and the comments I’ve read so far are balancing and sobering. I agree with both points of view, but recognize the “Bite of Bureaucracy”!! The first step in becoming a real leader is “Vision”. Understanding the vision does not preclude failure, we all have to be aware that both mud and honey will stick to you, irritate you, and will sometimes have to be cleaned off and replaced with something better. “Women and Cows both sense rain and danger!” But one you have to clean up after and the other will clean up for you (sometimes):)Every commitment represents a “two-edged” sword, but we cannot let the FEAR of being cut govern the use of the tool. Like a knife, fraternity affiliation can, and does serve a valuable purpose. Like everything else in life, fraternities are infested with humans, with all our strengths and intrinsic weaknesses. The solution to this conundrum is therefore, wisdom, vision and heroic effort. Dwell on the positive, expunge the negative and commit to positive success.

  10. For the record, this blog is not owned or operated by any organization. It’s just me. Not sure which “organization” you’re referring to Mr. Jones. Thanks.

  11. Brian K. Brooks says:

    Greeting and thank you.
    As an aspring member of Alpha Phi Alpha Franternity,Inc., I just want to commend Bro. T.J. Sullivan for his deep and inspiring words “You are always wearing your letters.” invoke you to realy take a look at yourself and think before you take that next big step in life. With this understand of life’s situations, It doesn’t matter how you win but how you loss. Thank you for these insightful words.

  12. Larry C Crider says:

    MTH said you have little or no say in how your organization is run. Are you active? Are you on any committee? Do you vote for your leadership local and national? Did you notice we now have a black president? Do you support him or just talk about him? Did you see how easy it was to elect him? If you want it it you have to work for it. Change does not happen over night. Everyone will not agree with you just because you say it right or good

  13. Donette says:

    I loved this. As a neo, we hear this alot but you never get how true it is until you meet someone that doesn’t know you and all they see is the letters on your clothes. If you are getting treated funny, then your org has work to do. *nods head* I liked this.

  14. Simple says:

    TKE for life, proud to wear those letters even at age 40 and beyond

  15. classysororitygirl says:

    I just read this article to my sorority, a room full of 70 women, and there was not a single dry eye in the room. This was one of the most inspiration things I have ever read to my chapter and I can guarantee that every single girl took it to heart. They now understand that every action they make effects everyone and that they could be the reason that we could potentially no longer exist. I loved this and I recommend it to anyone and everyone!

  16. Wow. That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing. I have posters of this, and if you want one, just email me (from the front page of the site). Be sure to give me your address.
    - TJS

  17. Sonia ImMasche says:

    TJ – fantastic! great to see something from you since I have been away from the day to day Greek scene for more than 8 years. This applies to Alumnae Panhellenic, Junior League, and a number of other organizations I belong to. I think I want to share this.

    Sonia :)

  18. Dr. Dean-Ross Schessler says:

    In a word: masterful!

  19. Tom Earp says:

    I stand in awe upon reading this post/blog! It represents the true meaning of joining a Greek Letter Organization.
    I plan on passing this along to all of my LXA Brothers and friends in other GLO’s!

  20. This is one of the most powerful and moving things I have ever read. As a Panhellenic President I could not be more thrilled to see this.

  21. Shelly says:

    I read this and cried. I cannot believe someone said this. You put it in great words. My chapter has had a lot of problems with things like this in the past and this is such an eye opener. Thank you.

  22. AMEN! This is right on point. I cannot tell you how many times I have cringed watching people even in my own organization who just don’t get this. Thank you so much for this article. I intend to spread it to the masses!

    Be Blessed!

  23. Chris Taylor says:

    Outstanding!!!! I will spread the word every chance I get!! Well Done!

  24. ivyegg1993 says:

    TJ, the words you penned are so profound. One Hundred years ago, I think this is what a certain woman had in mind when she had to confront her sisters to remind them of their vows/promise they made.
    So much harm has been done in the name of fraternities and sororities and it must end. The young people of today must be held accountable for their actions. They must know that their actions do impact the larger body because under the bonds of brotherhood/sisterhood we are one. Thank you for this wisdom you have shared I know it will bless many others as it has blessed me.

  25. Audrey says:

    Today this was presented to my chapter via a video another sorority had made. I cannot tell you how much I agree with this, and how many girls in my house walked away speechless, because of how perfectly worded it is. A lot of people choose not to see that side of things, and a lot of people don’t understand it. It’s written beautifully. I will always wear my letters, and I know my sisters will too. Thank you!


    Hey Everyone,

    So excited that the response to this blog post has been so overwhelming. I am very humbled! Unfortunately, so many people are asking for the posters, that it’s costing me a fortune in postage to send them out for free. So, if you would like a copy of the poster, please send me $3 via paypal to TJDenver@gmail.com with your address and “POSTER” somewhere in the transfer, along with your mailing address, and I’ll get one out to you.

    You can also go to the “Publications” link here on my blog, and there’s a 8.5×11″ PDF copy that you can download for free. (The link is in ORANGE.) You can download that, print any way you like, distribute it, etc.

    Thanks so much.

  27. Tiffany says:

    Gamma Phi Beta took this & made it into a video, just like a lot of other sororities have done and during Senior Week this past week we had it shown to us. I must say, even though I’ve been in the chapter for 3 years now it still touched me. I still had tears in my eyes and it made me realize why I love being Greek so much. Being in a fraternity or sorority is a beautiful thing but not a lot of people know what they are getting themselves into. Luckily, I know the video will be shown to our new women in the Fall before they become initiated members and I think it will help them even more when they are officially members of our chapter.

    Thanks for writing this. It was amazing.

  28. Beth McAllister says:

    Thank you so much for this! As an alumna and advisor to my chapter – this is something we all need to be reminded of. I will definitely share this with my alumni association and my actives! I am a proud Kappa Kappa Gamma and I am always thrilled to explain to people who ask about my letters that I have committed my name and my life to the pursuit of a noble sisterhood comprised of women that I am proud to call my sisters – but also part of a larger Greek family of brothers and sisters who may wear different letters but have tied themselves to a set of values that guide us in our lives.

  29. Anita says:

    I love this article. Thank you.

  30. Cameron says:

    FANTASTIC ARTICLE!!! One of the best yet. Phi Phi Brothers

  31. Matt Caires says:

    Can we all just agree that the world would be better off with a lot more TJ Sulivan in it?

  32. JKnighten says:

    This is a very powerful article that should be shared with all Greek organizations. It should be a constant reminder that what you do from the day you become initiated will impact the fraternity either positively or negatively. Excellent T.J.

    Alpha Man 06!

  33. Dave Lucescu says:

    Excellent T.J.! Put forward in an awesome way with high impact. Made me think of a speech I made, as Consul of the Vancouver chapter of Sigma Chi, to about 350 undergrads and alumni at our Province Conference almost 30 years ago. I spoke of the three-part obligation every member of our Fraternity (by extension, any Fraternity) undertakes: To those who walked the path before us, to never make them regret they joined. To those who walk with us, to make sure they are never embarrassed or have to defend joining our Fraternity. And to those who walk after us, because our actions today will determine if our organization will even exist in the future and continue to positively influence the lives of young men. Proud to be a Sig, always.

  34. Lauren Meyer says:

    Wonderfully said TJ! I rushed Tri Delta as a freshman this year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. We had numerous new member meetings learning about ΔΔΔ and at the very last meeting we had, they put together a slide show presenting us with this subject. What you wrote in the article is so true! People have worked so hard for so many years builing Greek life

  35. LaurenM says:

    Great article! I am in the Greek community at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and my sorority showed us this at our last new member meeting. It is definitely a serious subject that all members should be presented with. So many people before us have worked so long and hard getting our origination to where they are now. Our president always reminds us that we are apart of something that is so much greater!

  36. Rushdan Islam says:

    Truly an inspirational piece. If individiduals took this point of view and applied it to their families and themselves, i belive it would greatly elevate many and their contributions to all aspects of their lives and others. The mantra “..A whole is only as great as the sum of its parts” is really reflected here. Thank you for the article Mr. Sullivan.
    from an aspiring “Aspirant” (WSSU)

  37. Daniel Cass says:

    Great article! I am proud of my letters. I know how I should carry myself when I’m on and off campus. New members should read this so they can truly know what it means to wear the letters.

    Daniel Cass
    University of Southern Mississippi
    Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

  38. Karole Johnson says:

    Great article! It’s important for people to know that being in a GLO is not for 4 years but for LIFE. I love my letters! We all should do the best we can to UPHOLD the standards our founders put in place.

    EEE-Yip and Greek Love!

    Iota Sigma Chapter
    Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.

  39. Jonathan James says:

    Shared this tonight with a group of men interested in establishing a Phi Mu Delta Chapter at Shawnee State University! Thank you, TJ for being the leader, friend, and mentor that you are to me and so many!

  40. Lisa says:

    I found this through a video made by a Panhellenic chapter using these words. This is such a profound way to put the importance of your letters. I am making a video of this for my own chapter and for our new members. I don’t think it can be stressed enough how incredibly important representing your organization is. I don’t think anyone could have said this better. Thank you for your inspiration!

    Delta Iota Chapter
    Alpha Gamma Delta

  41. Jimmy Wagers says:

    As a fellow of Pi Kappa Phi, when I pledged we had a sub rit centered around this and it was by far one of the most amazing ones we did, along with man in the glass. This is a great way to remind all greeks that our actions whether positive or negative, have repercussions.

    Pi Kappa Phi
    Γ 1063 Γ

  42. [...] are positive by always making responsible choices and being respectful to others. Check out this article for more [...]

  43. Truth says:

    The greek system is satanic trash. And all it does is brainwash nobodies to think they are more than what they truly are …. the only way to gain any true relevance and purpose is through JESUS CHRIST.

    The greek system is entrenched in masonry, idolatry, brainwashing, debauchary, groupthink, lies, insecurities … BASICALLY AGENTS OF SATAN. Besides the “friendships” they try to sell people on are all empty and delusional, paying for and doing stupid stuff for friends is never a dignified and healty way to build a friendship period. Only a fool will fall for that sophistry.

    SATAN is the father of lies and deception and he’s fooling thousands that this is a noble endeavour. But it obviously isn’t and they are and will suffer as result of not knowing. We perish b/c of a lack of knowledge.

  44. Janee' Thornton, University of Louisiana at Lafayette says:

    This is so true and could not have been said better. Wearing your letters is a lifetime commitment and should not be taken lightly. I believe every person in a sorority or fraternity should read this and also anyone wanting to join. It’s important to remember this because often times we get caught up in life and forget our true purpose or why we chose Greek life. This definitely helped me to take a step back and realize that I am always representing every sister past and present on a daily basis. Reading this made my heart melt and proud to be a part of something bigger than myself.
    Phi Nu chapter
    Delta Delta Delta

  45. […] T.J. Sullivan says, “You are always wearing your letters.” (http://tjsullivan.com/you-are-always-wearing-your-letters/). Greek-letter organizations are easy to identify; it’s almost like wearing a target on […]

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