I attended a three year high school from 1978 to 1981. I took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (“PSAT”) in tenth grade, and I checked off a box in the PSAT application inviting colleges to send me their literature. I was contacted by the United States Military Academy (“USMA”) at West Point, New York; my best friend was contacted by the United States Naval Academy (“USNA”) at Annapolis, Maryland. We were both invited to attend a conference for high school students interested in attending a service academy and in a military career.
I went to the USMA conference; my friend went to the USNA conference, as did 100s of other high school students that year. Everyone knew the score: (1) the government picked up your education costs; (2) the government paid you a salary as you worked towards an engineering degree; (3) when you graduated, you were made an officer; and (4) then you served for four years in the military. It was a great opportunity: but only if you could survive the rigours of military academy life. And the conference gave you a fair opportunity to observe those rigours close up.
During the conference, a major approached me individually, by name, and pulled me out of earshot of other student-attendees. I have always assumed he (or his colleagues) had similar conversations with many if not with all the other student-attendees. I was told that if I apply, I would get in. It was as simple as that. I had very good standardized test scores and very good grades from my high school. When the major told me that I would get in if I applied, I believed him. I was told that West Point would find a Senator or Representative to nominate me, or I would come in with a number of students the academy could choose itself. I did not inquire about the details of the application process.
I told the major—having observed what the academy expected of its students athletically and otherwise—that I was sure to fail his programme. So I thanked him for the opportunity to attend the conference, but my applying was not in the cards. I made the right choice that day—although my decision was a real disappointment to my late father.
My scores and grades were good, very good, but I have no reason to think mine were the highest among the many student-attendees. I cannot believe that I was the only person to have received, what was in effect, assurances that if I applied I would get in. By any fair-minded description: it was an offer to attend West Point. Albeit, the offer was not in writing; it was an informal oral offer. Surely, many, many other people received similar offers. I expect that large list also includes Ben Carson.
PS: My prior is post: Seth Barrett Tillman, Justice Jackson’s Biblical Metaphor in Youngstown, The New Reform Club (Nov. 5, 2015, 3:47 AM), http://reformclub.blogspot.ie/2015/11/justice-jacksons-biblical-metaphor-in.html.
PPS: This conference was less than a decade after the end of the Vietnam War. This was a time when the service academies still had to make some substantial efforts to attract candidates with strong academic records. I expect those days are long gone.
PPPS: Please do have a look around New Reform Club. I can tell you that the material you find here, you will not find anywhere else. And thank you Chicago Boyz, Legal Insurrection, Right Coast, and Instapundit readers.
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