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In 1998, West Point made David Lipsky an unprecedented offer: stay at the Academy as long as you like, go wherever you wish, talk to whomever you want, to discover why some of America's most promising young people sacrifice so much to become cadets. Lipsky followed one cadet class into mess halls, barracks, classrooms, bars, and training exercises, from arrival through graduation, during arguably the most eventful four years in West Point's history. Lipsky witnesses the shifts in policy and practice known collectively as The Changes. He uncovers previously unreported scandals and poignantly evokes the aftermath of September 11, when cadets must prepare to become officers in wartime.
Having gained an exceptional degree of trust and candor from both cadets and administrators, Lipsky reveals their frank insights on drug use, cheating, romance, loyalty, duty, patriotism, and the Army's tortuous search for meaning as new threats loom. By telling their stories, he also examines the Academy as a reflection of our society: are its principles of equality, patriotism, and honor quaint anachronisms, or is it still, as Theodore Roosevelt called it, the most “absolutely American” institution?
“A superb description of modern military culture, and one of the most gripping accounts of university life I have read. How teenagers get turned into leaders is not a simple story, but it is wonderfully told in this book.” —David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review
“Addictive. . .a story that could inspire even nonmilitary buffs to follow the cadets' careers like those of their favorite sports stars.” —Newsweek
“A fascinating, funny and tremendously well written account of life on the Long Gray Line. Take a good look: this is the face America turns to most of the world, and until now it's one that most of us have never seen.” —Time
“Lipsky has done a distinguished service to a proud school.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Shows what West Point does well, taking apathetic and uncommitted young people and developing them into talented, capable officers, sometimes in spite of themselves.... Disparate experiences illuminate the real, human complexities of the Military Academy.” —Army Magazine
“Lipsky's book stands out as the most accurate and engrossing look at West Point, warts and all, as it exists today.” —Pointer View (A weekly newspaper for members of the West Point community)
“David Lipsky's up close and personal account of life at West Point is a national service. It takes the reader deep inside one of America's most important institutions.” —Tom Brokaw