Dead Poets Society
Inside the stone chapel of Welton Academy, a private school nestled in the remote hills of Vermont, more than three hundred boys, all wearing the academy blazer, sat on either side of the long aisle, surrounded by proud-faced parents, and waited. They heard the reverberations of the bagpipes as a short, elderly man swathed in flowing robes lit a candle and led a procession of students carrying banners, robed teachers, and alumnae down a long slate hallway into the venerable chapel.
The four boys who carried banners marched solemnly to the dais, followed slowly by the elderly men, the last of whom proudly carried the lighted candle.
Headmaster Gale Nolan, a husky man in his early sixties, stood at the podium watching expectantly as the procession concluded.
“Ladies and gentlemen... boys....”he said dramatically, pointing toward the man with the candle. “The light of knowledge.”
The audience applauded politely as the older gentleman stepped slowly forward with the candle. The bagpiper marched in place at the corner of the dais, and the four banner carriers, lowering their flags that read, “Tradition,“
“Discipline,” and “Excellence,” quietly took seats with the audience.
The gentleman with the candle walked to the front of the audience where the youngest students sat holding unlit candles. Slowly, he bent forward, lighting the candle of the first student on the aisle.
“The light of knowledge shall be passed from old to young,” Headmaster Nolan intoned solemnly, as each boy lit the candle of the student sitting next to him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished alumni, and students... This year, 1959, marks the hun-dreth year that Welton Academy has been in existence. One hundred years ago, in 1859, forty-one boys sat in this room and were asked the same question that now greets you at the start of each semester.” Nolan paused dramatically, his gaze sweeping the room full of intense, frightened young faces.
“Gentlemen,” he bellowed, “what are the four pillars?”
The shuffle of feet broke the tense silence as the students rose to attention. Sixteen-year-old Todd Anderson, one of the few students not wearing the school blazer, hesitated as the boys around him rose to their feet. His mother nudged him up. His face was drawn and unhappy, his eyes dark with anger. He watched silently as the boys around him shouted in unison, “Tradition! Honor! Discipline! Excellence!”
Nolan nodded, and the boys sat down. When the squeaking of chairs subsided, a solemn hush fell over the chapel.
“In her first year, ” Dean Nolan bellowed into the microphone, “Welton Academy graduated five students.” He paused. “Last year we graduated fifty-one students and over 75 percent of those went to Ivy League schools!”
A burst of applause filled the room as the proud parents sitting next to their sons congratulated Nolan’s efforts. Two of the banner carriers, sixteen-year-olds Knox Overstreet and his friend Charlie Dalton, joined in the applause. They both sported Welton blazers, and, sitting between their parents, they personified the Ivy League image. Knox had short curly hair, an outgoing smile, and an athletic build. Charlie had a handsome, preppy look about him.
“This kind of accomplishment,” Dean Nolan continued as Knox and Charlie looked around at their schoolmates, “is the result of fervent dedication to the principles taught here. This is why parents have been sending their sons here and this is why we are the best preparatory school in the United States.” Nolan paused for the applause that followed.
“New students,” he continued, directing his attention toward the newest boys to join the ranks of Welton Academy, “the key to your success rests on the four pillars. This applies to seventh graders and transfer students alike.” Todd Anderson squirmed again in his seat at the mention of transfer students, his face revealing his self-consciousness. “The four pillars are the bywords of this school, and they will become the cornerstones of your lives.
“Welton Society candidate Richard Cameron,” Nolan called, and one of the boys who had carried a banner snapped to his feet.
“Yes, sir!” Cameron shouted. His father, sitting beside him, beamed with pride.
“Cameron, what is tradition?”
“Tradition, Mr. Nolan, is the love of school, country, and family. Our tradition at Welton is to be the best!”
“Good, Mr. Cameron.
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