IMMORTAL WORDS ETCHED IN STONE AT WEST POINT
Recently, Bill O’Reilly, on his TV Program The O’Reilly Factor, speculated whether a student would actually report a fellow student he or she observed cheating. He concluded that it would NEVER happen. Well, Bill, West Point cadets have been bound by an honor code for nearly two centuries.
THE HONOR PLAZA
At the end of Thayer Walk, adjacent to the parade grounds, just behind the statue of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, is the THAYER WALK HONOR PLAZA, presented to the Academy by the Class of 1957. Inscribed thereon are words that should be the guideposts for not just cadets, but for each and every American.
From its earliest days, the U.S. Military Academy has sought to imbue cadets with an understanding of the importance of individual honor and integrity in the military profession. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer (Superintendent, 1817-33), “The Father of the Military Academy,” placed special emphasis on developing a steadfast sense of honor in cadets. He included an unwritten honor code, a presumption of trust and dealt severely with those who violated that code....A simple statement evolved which clearly expressed the honor code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal” (the words “or tolerate those who do” were added in 1970). The Cadet Honor Code endures as a cherished and respected part of cadet life. It demands firm adherence to the timeless principles of honesty, integrity, and non-toleration of those who violate its tenets. The code remains the noblest statement of the soul of the profession of arms. It is a legacy to the generations of the Long Gray Line yet unborn—may they be leaders of character and commitment prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow with courage and honor.
HONOR—Your word is your bond. Truth, honesty, and character are your watchwords never to be forgotten. Gen. Colin L. Powell
There is a true glory and a true HONOR: the glory of duty done—the HONOR of the integrity of principle. Maj. Robert E. Lee, USMA Class of 1829, Superintendent, 1852-55
In 1951, a cadet had a most difficult decision to make. He had observed that most of the football players were engaged in an organized cheating activity to provide answers to quiz questions. True to the Honor Code, he reported the activity, and it resulted in the expulsion or resignation of almost the entire team…including the son of the head coach.
Was it worth it? Ask yourself: In a foxhole with bullets flying over your head, would you want to be with a man of principle or a cheater?
...Grasp hands, though it be from the shadows,
While we swear, as you did of yore,
On living, or dying, to HONOR
The Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.
From “The Corps”
Bishop H.S. Shipman,
USMA Chaplain, 1896-1905