by sherry mann
On this date (May 12) in 1962, Douglas MacArthur delivered his famous “Duty, Honor, Country” valedictory speech at the United States Military Academy. The original speech may be read here, but I have made small changes so that it might be a more fitting address from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to a dying America 48 years later.
President Obama, British Petroleum officials, shareholders, and servicemen of the United Corporations of America. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” and when I replied, “The Gulf of Mexico,” he replied, “Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before? If so, you won’t recognize it today.”
No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a setting as this, coming from a profession I have served so long and people I have loved so well. It fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But as look at these shores today–awash will the oil we have sacrificed so much for–this fitting reward symbolizes the moral code–the code of conduct of those like me who have served the US–the “defensive” arm of fine companies like Shell, Unocal and BP, we wore our uniforms proudly as we fought and often died for this “American way of life“.
What is the meaning of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated with so feeble an ideal–yet somehow triumphant in its purpose as we can see, smell and feel here, arouses a sense of humility which will be with me always.
“Duty,” “Honor,” “Country”–those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, yet as an American soldier or oil consumer–what you will never be. They are your rallying points to build rhetoric when facts fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for it, and to create hope even when it is based on chains we can believe in.