society logoUPDATED Nov. 30: The second in Arlington Historical Society’s yearly programming series “Relevancy – Connecting Historical Themes and Contemporary Topics” was held Tuesday, Nov. 29, in Arlington Town Hall, 730 Mass. Ave.

The program, cosponsored by Arlington Veterans Services, was free of charge for all visitors. The program had been rescheduled from an earlier date.

William Rapp, Ph.D., a retired major general and scholar, plans to discuss the Lakota (Sioux) and Northern Cheyenne in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, when they fought to retain their lands and way of life against the wave of Euro-American western migration. The title of his talk is “Lakota at Little Bighorn and Ukraine in the Donbas.”

His presentation aims to bring leadership of the war to life from the perspective of the Lakota and, by doing so, allow the audience to learn valuable lessons for leadership today. He will then transition to the similar fight by the Ukrainians to repel the Russian invasion today and how President Volodymyr Zelensky has been similarly maintaining the Ukrainian spirit and sense of national unity over the past year.

“Custer’s Last Fight” (Little Big Horn) Lithograph by Charles Marion Russell“Custer’s Last Fight” (Little Big Horn) lithograph by Charles Marion Russell.

“Instead of thinking about how [Gen. George Armstrong] Custer lost at Little Bighorn, people today ought to consider how Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others worked together to beat Custer despite these chiefs not having the authority to direct actions of other tribes and warriors,” Rapp noted in a society newsletter. “Creating unity of effort in the absence of full hierarchical authority is the demand on corporate and public leaders today.”

Rapp has a storied career as a member of the U.S. Army, in academia and in leadership development. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served for more than 33 years in the continental United States, Germany, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan, ending his career as the Army’s senior liaison to the U.S. Congress and then as commandant of the Army War College.

Rapp commanded an airborne engineer company in the first Gulf War, a mechanized engineer battalion in Germany, a multicomponent engineer brigade in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the 17,000-soldier National Support Element for U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

He served a year with Gen. David Petraeus in Baghdad, Iraq, during the surge of 2007-2008. Rapp commanded the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and then returned to West Point as the 72nd commandant of the Corps of Cadets.

Rapp earned his doctorate in political science from Stanford University, served a year in Tokyo as a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and taught international relations in the social-sciences department at West Point. He was a resident lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and ran the Army’s strategic leadership program for one- to-three-star general officers.

Gen. Rapp has numerous military awards and decorations, including two Defense Service medals, two Bronze Star medals, master parachutist and Ranger tabs.

His first book on leadership, Accomplishing the Impossible- Leadership that Launched Revolutionary Change, was published in October 2021. He is now finishing a book on Sioux and Cheyenne leadership in the Great Plains wars of the mid-19th century. 

Oct. 16, 2021: $39K grant allows historical society to digitize, reshelve 1,352 objects

This news announcement was published Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, based on information from the historical society. It was updated Nov. 23, 2022, to note that Rapp served as commandant of the war college, not president.