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An Officer and a Gentleman
One of the greatest speeches in modern history was delivered at West Point by the late General Douglas MacArthur; Supreme Allied Commander, Medal of Honor recipient, and native Arkansan
His famous address, “Duty, Honor, Country” is a master class in rhetoric. But more than that, it stands as a graduate course in civic virtue.
“Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
A “gentleman officer” is one whose valor is adorned by virtue. MacArthur was interested in making men, not merely rustling recruits.
“They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease.
They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.
But soldiers must also face the harsh reality of human conflict. For MacArthur, war was an unspeakable evil, but an evil to be met head on in pursuit of peace.
“the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’
The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint.
They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday.
I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.
But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.
Always there echoes and re-echoes:
Duty, Honor, Country.
Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.
I bid you farewell.”
I encourage you, soldier and civilian alike, to find half an hour sometime today and listen to what one old soldier had to say before he quietly faded away.