Tau Kappa Alpha
Initiation Ritual


The initiation is divided into two parts:
The Voluntary, which is optional with the chapters.
The Ceremony, which is given to all candidates.
The Voluntary is intended to be wholly in a light vein and its use is optional. When used, the National Office recommends that it be given at a different time and place than the Ceremony, and that it not be in charge of the chapter officers.
The Ceremony is intended to be serious and impressive, and is to be given all new members. It should be in charge of the chapter officers who have not (except as spectators) taken part in the Voluntary, and these officers may, if the chapter prefer, wear the academic robes. The Ceremony should not be casually clone, stumbled through, or mumbled but should be given slowly, with measured power, full meaning, and deep feeling. It should be so given that in later years members will remember it as one of the most impressive moments in their lives. Anything less is not worthy of the traditions of Tau Kappa Alpha.


The Voluntary

This part of the initiation is in charge of four members chosen especially for the occasion: Presiding Officer, Examiner, Master-of-Pebbles, and Sergeant-at-Arms.
The chapter is assembled in the meeting room, excepting the Sergeant-at-Arms who is in charge of the candidates in another room. The Sergeant-at-Arms with one candidate knocks outside the door of the meeting room.
Presiding Officer:
Who comes there?
Unworthy Neophyte (giving candidate's name).
Presiding Officer:
Let him enter at his own peril.
Candidate enters accompanied by Sergeant-at-Arms.
All members of the chapter are seated except the Presiding Officer. Candidate stands facing Presiding Officer.
Presiding Officer:
Mr. (or Miss) , you have been elected to membership in Tau Kappa Alpha, providing, of course, you are now able to qualify in this final and supreme test. You are alleged to possess excellence as a public speaker and attainments as a scholar. We are now to determine whether these qualities do, in fact, exist. Will the Examiner take charge.
I shall proceed to test the candidate's alleged excellence as a public speaker and attainments as a scholar. Mr. (or Miss) will give a brief speech on the subject .
As candidate starts speaking members join in continuous interruption, jeers, and advice on how to speak.
Examiner, to Presiding Officer:
Sir, the candidate has failed to meet the final and supreme test.
Presiding Officer:
The candidate has failed to meet the supreme and final test. Shall he be given a second chance?
A few members shout "No!" but the majority shout "Yes!"
Presiding Officer:
Very well. The members desire that you shall have a second chance, and so you shall. But this is the last chance, and from it there can be no appeal. You will be given, therefore, the supreme Demosthenes Test. As you know, Demosthenes, the greatest orator of antiquity, when he first mounted the bema was likewise hooted down. Like you, he was awkward in his hearing and his voice was harsh and tuneless. His speech wearied his audience. He complained bitterly that, while any drunken sailor could get a hearing, he was howled down in a moment. His friends, however, encouraged him to persist, assuring him that, however bad his manner might be, the intrinsic merit of his speech would gain for him recognition, should he attain a suitable delivery. Demosthenes was wise. He heeded the admonition of his friends. He retired to a cave upon a lonely island, and there set himself to learn the art of public speaking. Amid the roaring of the wind and the dashing of the waves, he learned the art with which he later quelled the boisterous mob.
To overcome an imperfect articulation he learned to speak clearly and distinctly, yea, even with pebbles in his mouth. He climbed steep hills, reading as he went, and did not disdain to practice grace before a mirror. Thus Demosthenes surmounted all obstacles.
You, my brother (or sister), should not disdain to strive with equal perseverance to overcome your faults. Therefore, in emulation of the great Demosthenes, you will practice grace before a mirror, and speak with pebbles in your mouth until you prove yourself proficient in the art.
The Master-of-Pebbles takes charge, leads the candidate to a large mirror, and deliberately with ad lib explanations about the history and significance of each pebble, fills candidate's mouth with pebbles. The candidate is then required to speak before the mirror.
Sir, the candidate has passed the Demosthenes Test, and is entitled to membership.
Candidate removes pebbles from mouth.
Presiding Officer, in a solemn tone:
Your perseverance, sir (or madam), is truly laudable. Twice you have attempted to speak in this assembly, in vain. I wish to assure you that no discourtesy was meant by what has been done. Our only purpose was to impress upon you that constant effort and persistent endeavor are the requisites of success in public speaking. Having proved yourself willing to make such sacrifice to attain the high and noble ends for which this fraternity was founded, we receive you gladly, and will be delighted to hear you upon any subject that you care to speak.
All members assume a respectful attitude of attention and permit the candidate to start speaking seriously, but after one or two sentences only, the members interrupt with tremendous applause that cuts the speech short. The candidate retires, the next candidate is brought to the assembly by the Sergeant-at-Arms, and the Voluntary is repeated separately for each candidate.
Presiding Officer:
Candidates of Tau Kappa Alpha, I commend you all for a devotion to the art of clearly articulated and meaningful speech. By your persistence in the face of obstacles, you have shown yourselves worthy of admission to the final stage of the initiation which will be held give time and place of the final Ceremony. To that final stage, I now declare you rightfully eligible.

The Ceremony

This part of the ceremony is conducted in an entirely serious manner and is in charge of the regular officers of the fraternity.
Candidates of Tau Kappa Alpha, from the dawn of human life, and under various names and in various forms, oratory has had the power to lift man above his lower self. Like all good things, it has been abused by charlatans and misused by seekers of selfish power, yet through the centuries it has remained the instrument of a free people to perfect their freedom and to quicken their hopes and ideals. We hear it from the lips of Pericles as long ago as 431 B.C., when he said: "Heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, their deeds are inscribed not on tablets of stone but in the hearts of men." We hear it again from the lips of a tall gaunt man whose words spoken from a battlefield in 1863 are as inspiring today as when they were fust uttered: "That government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
We hear it in this century from the leader of a nation who in a critical hour spumed cheap promises to voice an ageless challenge in words of matchless simplicity: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
History is not merely written with words. Through oratory, it is also made with words, the words of great men who can state in simple language the needs and hopes of common people. "Give me the right word and the rjght accent," said Joseph Conrad, "and I will move the world."
To the cultivation of effective speaking Tau Kappa Alpha is dedicated. You have been elected to membership because you have made a sustained effort to perfect yourself as a speaker and have attained proof of a reasonable success in doing so. But these attainments, worthy as they are, would not alone entitle you to membership. Your general scholarship is high, and your character is such that we believe you will not misuse the power of speech you have developed. In this country the right of free speech has never been seriously questioned, but the duty of responsible speech has not always been seriously upheld. We charge you to hold it seriously, never to speak without wisdom, never to use the power of speech to mislead others or to destroy the liberties of the people. Tau Kappa Alpha delights to honor by election to membership those who attain these standards and accept these ideals.
Are you willing to unite with such a fraternity?
Candidates answer.

Then raise your right hand and repeat after me the obligation:
"I, , solemnly promise that I will do all in my power to develop in myself and to encourage in others a high standard of excellence in speech. I further promise to uphold to the best of my ability the ideals for which Tau Kappa Alpha stands, never to speak without a sense of responsibility for my words, never to speak to mislead others or to take away the rightful liberties of any person or group."
By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the chapter of Tau Kappa Alpha, I declare you members of the Tau Kappa Alpha Fraternity.
The name of the Fraternity, Tau Kappa Alpha, is derived from the initial letters of
the Greek words Time Kai Axion (pronounced timmay ky axion), which, liberally translated, means "Honor for Merit," and indicates the purpose for which the Fraternity was founded. The emblem of the Fraternity is the Tau Kappa Alpha key, or scroll, made of gold, in the form of a watch key. Embossed on a rose gold center on the face of the scroll are the letters T K A surrounded by a wreath of laurel and eleven stars. Embossed on the lower roll of the scroll are three Greek numerals.
In Athens, the cradle of our own Western Civilization, the scroll signified attainment in scholarship. You are granted the scroll of Tau Kappa Alpha to signify attainment in speaking, which in turn presumes attainment in scholarship.
In Athens the wreath of laurel was the coveted award for achievement, and so now the wreath of laurel is presented you in testimony of your achievement in speech. May you wear the Tau Kappa Alpha key with as much pride as the ancient Greek wore the laurel wreath or received the scroll of scholarship.
The eleven stars on the key commemorate the eleven founders of Tau Kappa Alpha. They are
Hugh Th. Miller, Joseph J. Boyle, Walter H. Linn, Lawrence De Vore, Carl Barnett, Roger W. Wallace, Oswald Ryan, George Claris Adams, Herbert R. Hyman, Chester A. Jewett, and Walter R. Miles, who as representatives of various Indiana universities and colleges in which they had attained distinction in forensics, met in the chamber of the Lieutenant-Governor of Indiana on May 13, 1908, to complete the organization of the Tau Kappa Alpha.
The three Greek numerals, alpha sampi eta, on the lower roll of the scroll mean, in the Greek, in order, 1,000-900-8, signifying the year in which Tau Kappa Alpha was founded.
On the reverse side of the badge may be engraved the name of its owner, the chapter to which his membership attaches, and the year of admission to membership. Each member of the Fraternity is expected to purchase the Fraternity emblem, and to wear it at all proper times.
In wearing this badge, you will not only display the token that your ability has won, but will also make known the fact that Tau Kappa Alpha delights to honor those who are worthy. As you go from excellence in college to broad and true success in the world, this golden key will inspire other men and women to strive for what you have attained, a place of honor among your fellow men.
You are now members of a fraternity devoted to high and pure purposes. May you ever employ your abilities on the side of justice and liberty. To plead the cause of the oppressed, to secure the rights of the weak, and bespeak justice for all mankind, are among the greatest privileges of the speaker.
Eloquence is the child of liberty and justice. It can spring from no other stock. Where speech is free, man is free. Where speech is not free, man is enslaved.
Eloquence can have few higher themes or support few nobler causes than the proposition that, under God, all men are peers.
Eloquence can come only from a deep love of man, of his needs and his hopes. Though you speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, you will become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.
These are the high ideals held by members of Tau Kappa Alpha. By making them your own, may you gain inspiration for a life of achievement and service, and a life fruitful of substantial happiness.