At first look (and listen), Army football’s slick 2014 introductory video has all the standard fare of preseason hype, including in no particular order:
- Players in a dimly lit studio modeling new uniforms and trying to look imposing.
- A head coach twirling a football on his finger and giving the camera a look that all but screams, “Are you sure I have to twirl this football? Can’t I just look imposing?”
- Assorted highlights, quick cuts and logos, all set to a powerful soundtrack.
- More explosions.
- An introduction from a famous alumnus.
And that’s where the similarities between Army’s video (scroll down to watch) and others stop. The introductory words — in fact, the only words — spoken in the 90-second clip don’t come from a gridiron star or a hip-hop mogul. They’re from Douglas MacArthur.
MacArthur made the remarks in 1962, about a decade after the five-star general left service, while accepting the Sylvanus Thayer Award, given each year by the West Point Association of Graduates to “an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, ‘Duty, Honor, Country,'” according to the association’s website.
It’s an impressive piece of oratory that goes far beyond the few seconds sampled by the video-makers. MacArthur quotes Plato, discusses the challenges of a military coming to terms with its post-war identity and frightening new technology, paints vivid pictures of the desolation, agony and bravery of combat, and, as with most good speeches, starts with a joke:
As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” And when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?”
The 1903 West Point graduate also discussed his own mortality: “I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille,” he said, “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.”
He would fade away two years after delivering the speech, which stands as one of many illustrations why “Duty, honor, country” goes far beyond a slogan on the back of the Army football jersey.