they have to do unpleasant—sometimesrnvery unpleasant—tasks.rnThese 60 subjective points were thernhardest to award, and sparked the mostrndisagreements. A sample:rnChairman: “He . . . I don’t know . . .rndidn’t strike me as . . . his look was allrnwrong.”rnHousewife: “He was sweet.”rnRealtor lady: “I just don’t know. Irnliked his tie, but he doesn’t seem to understandrnthat he isn’t going to be seeingrnhis girlfriend at all.”rnAccountant: “Hmmmm.”rnFormer university president: “I justrnthink he’s an outstanding young man.rnAnd by God, he’s got my vote!”rnMe: “This kid doesn’t have a clue as tornwhat he’ll be getting into.”rnWe all tallied our results and handedrnthem to the chairman. He added themrnall and divided to get an average. Ted’srnscore: 81.rnNext came Jack, a young man sportingrna mustache and a goatee. I immediatelyrnsurmised that he was a product of our illustriousrnpublic school system. A freernspirit, he wore dark slacks and a crewrnneck sweater. (Ted wore a sport coat andrntie.) Jack was different, way different.rnOur chairman asked him: ‘You say herernthat your first choice is Air Force, yourrnsecond West Point. Are you aware, Jack,rnthat at either of those academies facialrnhair is not permitted?”rnOur candidate shrugged his shoulders.rn”That’s cool.” The accountantrnthen asked why in one semester duringrnhis junior year his grade in Spanish wentrnfrom an A to a D.rn”Well, that’s easy,” said Jack. “Yournsee, the teacher there was, well . . . yournknow, we didn’t see eye to eye. I mean,rnshe was a real bitch.”rnI have rarely heard a silence so total, sorncrushing. Our chairman smiled, as thernrealtor lady and the housewife gasped,rnand he said to Jack, ‘Yes, well, that’s fine.rnDoes anyone else have questions forrnJack?” No one did.rnOur next candidate was Steven, a tall,rnred-haired young man wearing a suit.rnVery conservative. Very well spoken.rnHe was a student at Charlotte CountryrnDay (annual tuition: around $10,000),rnand he lived with his folks in Myers Park,rnon a street known as Queens Road West.rnFor the uninitiated, Myers Park is prett)’rnmuch the area of Charlotte in which tornlive: both old and new money residernthere. Rather than worry if this youngrnman knew what he was getting into andrnwhat West Point (his first and onlyrnchoice) was really like, I mentioned thatrnMyers Park and Country Day were evidencernof having been raised in ratherrncomfortable circumstances. He noddedrnquiedy. “Are you aware, Steven, that asrnan Army officer you will literally neverrnmake enough money to live in thernneighborhood your parents live in now?”rnHe looked me resolutely in the eyernand said, “Yes, sir. And I don’t care.”rnHis grandfather, we learned, was arnclassmate of William Westmoreland; attendingrnWest Point had been Steven’srngoal since early boyhood. He spoke ofrnthe desire to serve his country and be partrnof a tradition that extends back to beforernthe War of 1812.rnRealtor lady: “I look at your application,rnSteven, and I don’t see that you’vernindicated any other academies as alternaternchoices.”rn”No ma’am.”rnJudge: “Well, what will you do if yourndon’t get into West Point?”rn”I’ve been accepted to North CarolinarnState Universit)’. I’ll go there, enroll inrnROTC, and reapply in another year.”rnApplecheeked housewife: “But Annapolisrnis also a nice school.”rn”Yes ma’am, but it’s not for me.”rnChairman: “You’re certain that yourndon’t want to indicate a ‘back-up’ academy?”rn”Yessir.”rnHe left smartly, and we looked over hisrnpacket as we filled out his score sheet.rnHis SATs and GPA only netted him a 26;rnbut for the subjective portion, I gave himrna 55.rn”But I just think he’s too rigid aboutrnthis West Point thing,” said the realtor lady-rn”So, what’s wrong with that?” I asked.rn”He’s decisive, he knows what he wants.rnWhy hold that against him?” Steven hadrngenerated more discussion than either ofrnour first two candidates, and I couldn’trnunderstand why. He was without arndoubt our best prospect. In the end werngave him a collective 82. Just one pointrnahead of Ted, our nondescript first candidate.rnI asked myself, why am I with thesernfools who know little or nothing of life atrnany of the academies? With an activernalumni organization in town. West Pointrncould have staffed every position on thisrnboard with a grad. I got on because therncongressman’s local representative was arnfriend and he offered me a place on thernpanel. I should have told him that I hadrna dozen or more fellow alums whornwould be tickled pink to be part of thisrnprocess. But I didn’t. My mistake.rnOver lunch, I had the opportunity tornspeak with some of the members of thernNavy/Merchant Marine/Coast Guardrnpanel. “So what did you think of youngrnTed?” I asked.rn”Sharp kid,” said one of the Navy panelrnmembers. “We gave him, I think, arn92.”rnMany of the young men interviewedrnafter lunch also saw no reason to wear arncollared shirt and tie or to address theirrnadult questioners formally. I was distressedrnthat, of our six candidates that afternoon,rntwo had come from brokenrnhomes. What a chore it must have beenrnfor these young men just to concentraternon their studies. Without either a fatherrnto coach you or a mother to encouragernyou, facing a panel such as ours must berna daunting task. But I was struck by whatrnI perceived as a lack of seriousness towardrnthe military. Four of the six candidates,rnwhen asked why they wanted to attendrna service academy, almost instantlyrnreplied: “Because it’s a great educationrnand it doesn’t cost anything.” Well,rnmaybe not to their parents, but it will costrnthe young graduate a number of years onrnactive duty in the Armed Forces. Whilerntheir high school classmates who went tornstate imiversities or prestigious privaterncolleges were working regular hours andrnmaking competitive wages at IBM orrnDuPont, these young lads would be onrndestroyers in the North Atiantic or ridingrnaround atop tanks in Germany. Awayrnfrom family, in foreign or even hostilernenvironments, and making mediocrernsalaries, they would slowly learn that theyrnwere now paying the tuition that thernUnited States taxpayer had kindly defrayedrnfor their four years at West Pointrnor Annapolis.rnThe two best candidates of the afternoon,rnby far, both scored in the low 90’s.rnOne was salutatorian of his class and hadrnSATs in the 1400’s; the other was rankedrnfourth, had SATs in the high 1300’s, andrnwas captain of the basketball team. Bothrnhad Air Force as their second choice andrnthe Naval Academy as their first. For myrnmoney, Steven was still the best of thernlot. Steadfast, unswer-ingly dedicated tornachieving his goal of wearing Army gray.rnOf course, I’m prejudiced in favor ofrnWest Point, but the other kids were eitherrnless than fully committed or, likernour two prime candidates, not interestedrnin the Army. I wrote this off to the factrn42/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn