The Magazine

War Is No Joke

A West Point baccalaureate address.

May 31, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 35 • By RUTH R. WISSE
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America is free thanks to those who won its independence. It has come to represent the ideal of freedom only thanks to those who were prepared in body and spirit to champion that ideal. That means you, and those who came before you, and those who will follow your example. Builders must be stronger, wiser, and more creative than their would-be destroyers if they intend to keep even a fragile peace. This truth that Jews have learned at great cost is something Americans have always known. 

That is why, in this season of convocation, we your relatives, friends, and well-wishers honor you who have trained for the armed forces, acting on the knowledge that radical innocence is no match for radical evil.

Ruth R. Wisse is Martin Peretz professor ofYiddish literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. This article is adapted from her address on May 20 to 13 Jewish cadets graduating from West Point—whose inaugural class of 1802 had two students, one of them a Jew.

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