It’s Inauguration Day, an important moment in American history. The United States has a new president and vice president in Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris who were both sworn in this morning at the US Capitol. But, before this team embarked on their journey to the White House, they were students! Both President Biden and Vice President Harris were active students at their colleges and members of campus organizations. In honor of today, we’re taking a look at two of those organizations: Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Alpha.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.: Member of Omicron Delta Kappa
Founded in 1914 at Washington and Lee University by 15 students, faculty, and administrators with the belief that leadership should be recognized at the collegiate level. Omicron Delta Kappa is the oldest leadership honor society in the US and states on its website that “the motives which guided the founders sprang from the desire to bring together one body for the general good of the institution, leaders from all parts of the college or university community.”
The Mission of ODK is to “identify, honor, and develop leaders in the collegiate and community life; encourage collaboration among students, faculty, staff, and alumni to advance leadership; and to promote and publicize our ideals.” The vision of Omicron Delta Kappa is, “as the most respected and effective leadership honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa strives for excellence in leadership and character development.” The Society lives by its ideals, which include:
- Scholarship - to strive for excellence in academics and pursue lifelong learning
- Service - to answer the call for action from one’s community or country
- Integrity - to align one’s values and beliefs with behaviors and speech
- Character - to distinguish oneself for the good of humanity
- Fellowship - to embrace those in the Society as equals, seeking inclusive bonds across diverse communities and generations
Omicron Delta Kappa looks for leaders in all areas of campus life, such as, scholarship, athletics, community service, social activities, student government, journalism/speech/mass media, and creative/performing arts.
In order to qualify for membership, students must be in the top 35% of his/her class with a minimum of a 3.5 GPA. Additional requirements are determined by each chapter, but ODK prides itself in being highly selective by limiting its annual membership induction to no more than 3-5% of a college/institution's total graduate enrollment.
Notable members of Omicron Delta Kappa include:
- Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
- President George H.W. Bush
- President Jimmy Carter
- President Gerald R. Ford
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Margaret Thatcher
- Walter Cronkite
- Shirley Chisholm
Omicron Delta Kappa currently has 318 active chapters and over 330,000 leadership members. You’ll recognize them on graduation day by their light blue, black, and white honor cords -- all worn as solids, along with their custom stoles.
Vice President Kamala D. Harris: Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha
Alpha Kappa Alpha is a sorority started by nine college students in 1908 at Howard University. The founding members had a dream to create “a support network for women with like minds coming together for mutual uplift, and coalescing their talents and strengths for the benefits of others” in a male-dominated time. Alpha Kappa Alpha is the first historically African American Greek-lettered sorority.
Their mission is “to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of “Service to All Mankind.” Alpha Kappa Alpha mentions in their history that its founding members “were conscious of their privileged position as college-trained women of color just one generation removed from slavery. But at the same time, they were sensitive to the needs and struggles of the less fortunate in underserved communities in their hometowns and in other environs beyond their travels who were in need of goods, services, and opportunities beyond their reach.”
Membership is by invitation only and the organization seeks women “who will promote, uphold, and extend its policies and programs.” Philanthropic efforts are focused on health, wealth, family, education, human rights, and parity issues. They seek to promote education and encourage students to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), raise community awareness of critical issues involving women’s health and wellness -- specifically for African American women, financial planning assistance, arts enrichment, and global impacts.
Alpha Kappa Alpha currently has over 300,000 members spanning across 1,024 chapters internationally. You’ll recognize members on graduation day by their pink and green honor cords.
We wish the new administration well and look forward to seeing how the educational background of both the president and the vice president plays a part in what happens in our country over the next four years.
Are you a member of Omicron Delta Kappa or Alpha Kappa Alpha? Let us know in the comments!