Duty, Honor, Country Address at West Point
In May 1962, General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) delivered this address to cadets at West point. A five-star general, MacArthur played a prominent role in the Pacific theater campaign during World War II, and from 1919-1922 served as the Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
When and How to Pair: Introduce General Douglas MacArthur’s speech at West Point after students have read the battle scene in “Beowulf,” lines 710-835, in order to analyze rhetoric. In this speech, MacArthur skillfully argues that the sole mission of the cadets he is addressing is to fight fearlessly by prioritizing “Duty, Honor, Country” above everything else. One can think of the entire epic poem of Beowulf under the light of a similar rhetorical goal: to motivate young men to fearlessly fight for country by placing, as Beowulf does, their sense of duty and personal honor above all. What rhetorical strategies does the poem use to convince its audience that it is honorable to fight and even die for one’s country? How is this appeal similar to the appeal MacArthur makes to his audience?