American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"MacArthur" (1977)


General Douglas MacArthur Addresses West Point Cadets

 Audio mp3 delivered by Gregory Peck


As I was leaving my hotel this morning, the doorman asked me, "Where are you bound for, sir?" When I replied, "West Point," he remarked, "It's a beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?"

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be. They are your rallying points. 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, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. In this way, they will teach you to be an officer and a gentlemen.

From your ranks come the great captains who will hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: "Duty, Honor, Country."

This does not mean that you are war mongers. On the contrary, 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 minds ring the ominous words of Plato: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."1

....The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here.

My days of old have vanished in 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 ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But, in the evening of my memory, always I return to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: "Duty, Honor, Country."

Today marks my final roll call with you. 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.

1 George Santayana, not Plato, is the correct source of this quotation

Also in this database: MacArthur's actual Thayer Award Address ("Duty, Honor, Country")

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