MacArthur on Being a Soldier and a Father

I recently bought a book called “Wisdom of Our Fathers” written by the late Tim Russert. I admired him a lot & the book is not disappointing me. I want to share part of a letter from the book with you. Beginning on Page 37, Tim wrote: “President Harry Truman & General Douglas MacArthur were bitter rivals, to the point where Truman relieved MacArthur of his command during the Korean war. And yet both men – the common man who found himself in a position of great power, where he had to make uncommonly hard decisions, & the feisty and brilliant military leader – were heroes to my dad.

When I was twelve, General MacArthur gave a speech at West Point that became an instant classic, especially in our neighborhood. Dad referred to it often, and to this day whenever I hear the word ‘honor ‘ I think of MacArthur. His subject that day was “Duty, Honor, Country” – the motto of the United States Military Academy. To some people, MacArthur told the cadets, those words were just a slogan. “But these are some of the things they do,” MacArthur said. “They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, & brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.” It was a great speech, & I’m sorry it isn’t better known today.


After ‘Big Russ & Me’ (his first book) was published, one of my readers sent me a quote from General MacArthur that he thought I might enjoy. “By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact,” MacArthur said. “But I am prouder – infinitely prouder – to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build, the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battlefield but in the home, repeating with him our simple daily prayer, Our Father Who Art in Heaven…”

A soldier destroys in order to build…

…the father only builds, never destroys.


General Douglas MacArthur, Advice:


I realize that advice is worth what it costs — that is, NOTHING!


General Douglas MacArthur, Age:


I promise to keep on living as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.


General Douglas MacArthur, on Age:

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.


General Douglas MacArthur, on Parenting:


A Prayer For My Son Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory…Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain..


General Douglas MacArthur, on Propaganda:


Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.


General Douglas MacArthur, A Soldier Speaks: Public Papers and Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, 1965 – Surrender:


There is not one incident in the history of humanity in which defeatism led to peace which was anything other than a complete fraud.


General Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences, pp. 216–17 (1964), [speech to the people of the Philippines, on Leyte], October 17, 1944:

People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of the Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil…. The hour of your redemption is here…. Rally to me…. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of Divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory.


General Douglas MacArthur, In his speech to the Republican Party Convention, October, 1962 – WAR:

“In war there is no substitute for victory.”

Published in: on July 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I for one think Gen Macarthur was the greatest Gen that ever lived.
    I am a retired airman and served my country during the korean war as well as the
    vietnam war so I think highly of Gen Macarthur.

    Also would like to know who promoted him to 5 Star gen. thank you very much.

    Ray Kerr A F Ret

  2. The quote about aging was actually written by Samuel Ullman (1840–1924) and not General MacArthur. Please see below.

    QUOTATION: Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a tempermental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.

    Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

    Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every being’s heart a love of wonder; the sweet amazement at the stars and starlike things and thoughts; the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what comes next, and the joy in the game of life.

    You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

    In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, grandeur, courage, and power from the earth, from men and from the Infinite—so long are you young. When the wires are all down and the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then are you grown old, indeed!

    ATTRIBUTION: SAMUEL ULLMAN, “Youth.”—Jane Manner, The Silver Treasury, Prose and Verse for Every Mood, pp. 323–24 (1934). This version is longer and also has minor variations in wording and punctuation from that in a privately printed edition of Ullman’s poems, From the Summit of Years, Four Score (n.d.). The oft-quoted “you are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt,” etc., is missing in From the Summit of Years… fourth paragraph:

    Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

    General Douglas MacArthur quoted the entire poem without attribution on his seventy-fifth birthday, in a speech to the Los Angeles County Council, American Legion, Los Angeles, California, January 26, 1955.—Representative Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, p. 85 (1964). Senate Doc. 88–95.

    MacArthur had this framed over his desk when visited in Manila by war correspondent Colonel Frederick Palmer, according to an article in This Week Magazine condensed in the December 1945 issue of The Reader’s Digest, p. 1, which said, “The General has had it in sight ever since it was given to him some years ago … it is based on a poem written by the late Samuel Ullman of Birmingham, Ala.”

    Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn’s seventy-eighth birthday fell upon the opening day of the second session of the 86th Congress. “During the January 6 [1960] ceremonies someone remembered what General Douglas MacArthur had said on his own seventy-fifth birthday and thought it applied quite well to Rayburn.”—C. Dwight Dorough, Mr. Sam, chapter 22, p. 546 (1962). There followed an excerpt of this poem, but it is not to be found in the Congressional Record account of the day, so perhaps the remembrance was an informal one.

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