October 12, 2020, is the 150th commemorative date of the death of Robert Edward Lee in Lexington, Virginia.
“This is Election-Year America,” pronounced George C. Scott on the Today show in the spring of 1976, from a script he had written himself. A native of Wise County, Virginia, who had, for a time, attended the Virginia Military Academy, Scott led an on-camera personal tour of the Washington and Lee Campus and the downtown area. He stopped at Stonewall Jackson’s grave, walked past the President’s House, coursed into the Chapel, and stood beside Valentine’s recumbent statue of Lee as he continued with these words:
This is 20th-century, thermo-nuclear, porno-liberated, cokey-alky, oligarchy, in-order-to-get-mine-I-gotta-grind-you America.
What are you and I supposed to learn from or feel about the world and the character of a man like R. E. Lee?
He’s cold. We’re cool
He’s passe. We’re avant.
He’s out of it. We’re up to here in it.
Well, there are a few qualities this remarkable creature had which may serve us too, if we consider them.
Quiet good humor.
Adoration of children.
Respect for hard work.
Dedication to an ideal.
Love of animals.
Appreciation of duly constituted authority–coupled with an abhorrence of authoritarianism.
A devotion to history, for, as General Lee said, “It is history that teaches hope.”
Gentleness, and the aspiration to achieve gentlemanliness.
Understanding of the state of being young.
Courtesy toward the conditional frailty of advanced age.
Acceptance of responsibility.
After Scott’s performance on Today, so many people approached W & L for a transcript of his narrative that the University sought and secured Scott’s permission to reprint it. (You can access a transcript here.)