Duty, Honor, Cowardice: What those outraged over West Point’s new mission statement don’t understand

Duty, Honor, Valor: Unveiling the Misunderstood Essence of West Point’s Renewed Mission Statement

The United States Military Academy at West Point recently sparked a debate by replacing the iconic phrase “Duty, Honor, Country” with “the Army Values” in its mission statement. West Point officials have clarified that “Duty, Honor, Country” continues to be the academy’s core motto, deeply embedded in its mission and culture.

However, this change has not gone unnoticed and has stirred up significant controversy. Critics have taken to social media platforms to express their concerns, accusing the academy of succumbing to modern trends like wokeness and globalism. They argue that this shift is a direct attack on the foundational principles of America’s military force, viewing it as both a moral and existential threat.

It’s important to note that the mission statement of West Point has undergone changes nine times since 1925. From my perspective as a graduate, I believe that objections to this recent change, if not based on the aesthetic appeal of the original phrase, are either misguided or intentionally provocative. The critics seem to be searching for a conflict where there is none, attacking an institution that upholds the very values they claim to cherish.

The Army Values include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Both duty and honor are clearly stated, raising the question of why critics are so concerned. The omission of “Country” seems to be their main issue, but this overlooks the fact that cadets commit to a lifetime of service to the Army and the Nation, a true mark of patriotism.

Before even joining the academy, cadets demonstrate remarkable courage by committing to serve their country, a level of bravery not possessed by many of the change’s detractors.

The criticism doesn’t only come from outsiders. Even West Point graduates and current cadets have voiced their concerns, often reflecting on how the academy’s traditions have shaped them into better leaders.

As a senior, I took a course called Military Art and Science, a requirement for all first-class cadets. We were asked to write about how West Point had changed us. My essay, which earned an A+, reflected on how my time at the academy broadened my perspectives, taught me to handle opposing ideas, and prepared me to lead under pressure.

After graduating in 2009, I immediately faced the realities of leadership during a deployment in Iraq. The principles of “Duty, Honor, Country” guided me, but the broader Army Values resonated more deeply with my soldiers and peers. This experience made me question whether the emphasis on those three words alone was enough to prepare leaders.

I am deeply committed to the well-being of America and West Point. While changing the academy’s motto might not solve all problems, the outcry it has generated seems disproportionate. Embracing a broader understanding of humanity does not weaken our ability to lead; it enhances it. Empathy is a crucial skill for leaders in any field.

By incorporating the Army Values into its mission, West Point is not only preparing cadets for future leadership roles but also evolving as an institution. This change is a positive step forward, reflecting a readiness to face new challenges rather than dwelling on past conflicts.

Robert B. Miner, a proud New York City native and West Point alum, shares these insights. For more thoughts, visit robertbminer.com.