Duty, Honor, Outrage: Change to West Point's Mission Statement Sparks Controversy

March 15, 2024
Parade Day at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point

WEST POINT, N.Y. — “Duty, Honor, Country” has been the motto of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point since 1898. That motto isn’t changing, but a decision to take those words out of the school’s lesser-known mission statement is still generating outrage.

Officials at the 222-year-old military academy 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of New York City recently reworked the one-sentence mission statement, which is updated periodically, usually with little fanfare.

The school’s “Duty, Honor, Country,” motto first made its way into that mission statement in 1998.

The new version declares that the academy’s mission is “To build, educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets to be commissioned leaders of character committed to the Army Values and ready for a lifetime of service to the Army and Nation.”

“As we have done nine times in the past century, we have updated our mission statement to now include the Army Values,” academy spokesperson Col. Terence Kelley said Thursday. Those values — spelled out in other documents — are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage, he said.

Still, some people saw the change in wording as nefarious.

“West Point is going woke. We’re watching the slow death of our country,” conservative radio host Jeff Kuhner complained in a post on the social media platform X.

Rachel Campos-Duffy, co-host of the Fox network’s “Fox & Friends Weekend,” wrote on the platform that West Point has gone “full globalist” and is “Purposely tanking recruitment of young Americans patriots to make room for the illegal mercenaries.”

West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland said in a statement that “Duty, Honor, Country is foundational to the United States Military Academy’s culture and will always remain our motto.”

“It defines who we are as an institution and as graduates of West Point,” he said. “These three hallowed words are the hallmark of the cadet experience and bind the Long Gray Line together across our great history.”

Kelley said the motto is carved in granite over the entrance to buildings, adorns cadets’ uniforms and is used as a greeting by plebes, as West Point freshmen are called, to upper-class cadets.

The mission statement is less ubiquitous, he said, though plebes are required to memorize it and it appears in the cadet handbook “Bugle Notes.”

Related: VA to Change Motto, Switching to Gender-Neutral Language that Recognizes All Who Have Served

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