The Goats of West Point

Where are they now?

But education reformers didn’t like this practice. They called it the Cult of the Goat. So West Point went to alphabetical order for graduation, except for the very top people. However, there is still a list of who ranks where and even though the list is kept under wraps, on graduation day everybody knows who the Goat is. As they go down the list alphabetically, suddenly somewhere in the middle everyone starts cheering. And if you don’t know why, you don’t understand why everyone starts cheering. The reason is that person is the Goat. The tradition has been much more durable than these bureaucrats have given it credit for.

How do they get the word out to the cadets?
I’m not exactly sure how the word is spread. But in these days of e-mail I think it’s probably a pretty easy thing to do. Somebody gets the word out and on that day everybody knows.

Has West Point lost anything by officially doing away with this tradition?
Oh sure, I’m a great believer in tradition. I think they say a lot about cultures, institutions, and who we are. It’s a very American thing to celebrate the underdog. I think our country was founded by a lot of underdogs and people who were kicked out of a lot of the best countries in Europe. And we have made a great country. The most powerful, most influential country in the world in human history has been built by people who fled Europe because they were peasants or just weren’t succeeding there so they came here. And the Goat tradition grew out of that. It’s a very natural, spontaneous, American tradition. It’s something that should be honored and I think West Point should bring it back officially, but even if they don’t it’s still going to be there.

See also:
Still Standing: George Custer in the 21st Century

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