After Thirty-Five Years: A Freshman of '85 to a Freshman of to-Day

JUNE, 1921

BY FREDERICK J. E. WOODBRIDGE

I

You began your college course in the fall of 1920. I began mine in the fall of 1885. You belong wholly to the twentieth century. I belong mainly to the nineteenth. Centuries are, no doubt, artificial divisions of time and not natural divisions of civilization. In spite of the calendar, your active life and mine will fall within a period of one hundred years; only I shall have preceded you, and ought, at this particular date, to be not only older, but wiser. Yet if the times when you and I became freshmen are attentively considered, it is quite clear that you and I are separated by something else than years or wisdom, by something which gives point to saying that you belong to one century and I to another. As a freshman you are quite different from the freshman of my day.

What I have just said to you would not have been said to any of my class on entering college by an elder who, in his turn, had entered college in 1850. For, as freshmen, the students of his day and of mine were very much alike. They came from the same kind of homes. Their parents were the same kind of people. As students they had had the same kind of preparation for college, and were destined to pursue the same studies when they went to college. They had the same intellectual apparatus and spoke the same language. By that I mean that they had recourse to a common stock of ideas, which they exchanged or brought to bear upon life, and that they understood one another when t hey attempted to exchange ideas. Thirty-five years had not put between them differences like those which make 1885 and 1920 look like a contrast instead of a similarity. No; in those days fathers and sons, even grandfathers and grandsons, differed in age and wisdom, but they did not differ in morals, education, or civilization. They belonged to the same century.

This cannot be said of you and me. The differences between us are radical and far-reaching. They are significantly illustrated by our education. You were not prepared for college as I was, and it would be a miracle if you, or any member of your class, pursued in college the course of study which I pursued. Yet there was nothing peculiar about either my preparation or my course. Both were quite conventional. Both constituted what was considered in my day and in my father’s day a liberal education. They expressed an outlook upon life which was commonly understood and commonly accepted. Your education does not differ from mine because mine was peculiar. It differs because mine has ceased to be conventional and accepted. It is no longer standard. That is a little startling when you come to think of it. My type of education was the type of education for generations of students preceding me. Your type of education is not as old as I am.

Yet there is something far more startling about this contrast between you and me. Few members of your class have been, and still fewer will be, educated alike. That could not be said of my generation. You do not, as we did, enter college with a common and well-understood conception of what constitutes a liberal education; and the chances are that your college course, instead of bringing you into closer intellectual sympathy with one another, or giving to all of you a common philosophy of life, will drive you in these matters further apart than you now are. You enter college when the educational world is quite undecided on fundamental matters, and when education no longer expresses an outlook upon life which is commonly understood and commonly accepted. Instead of finding the sea of education mapped and charted, you will find that you will often be called upon to map and chart it for yourself. Instead of finding already decided what it is best for you to study, you will find that question in debate, and you will often be called upon to decide it for yourself, with little experience to guide you.

Regarded from the point of view of 1885, and indeed of centuries preceding, your century, so far at least as education is concerned, looks like chaos and confusion. You are representative of an age which has lost the sense of tradition and precedent, which has no common background of ideas and no common standards of judgment; an age which is progressive and revolutionary, which trusts the new and distrusts the old, and lives excited by visions of the future rather than disciplined by experiences of the past.

Since I entered college, there has been going on an educational revolution. I found it going on when I began to teach, and I have been mixed up with it ever since. Often I am unconscious of it. But I have only to revisit my Alma Mater in an attempt to recover the days of old, or spend an evening with my classmates in recalling what those days were, to have forced upon me a realization of what has happened. Between your college days and mine there is a difference, which is to be defined, not in terms of years or wisdom, but in terms of morals and civilization.

I have called your attention to this difference because it defines, I think, the problem which your generation must solve if the civilization of the twentieth-century America is to be a really great civilization. The fact that in much less than fifty years commonly accepted ideas and standards of education have been overturned is one of the results of many forces, which have operated since the Civil War to destroy the moral and intellectual unity which the American people once possessed. The America of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Lincoln, the America of Hawthorne, Emerson, Lowell, and Mark Twain, the America of the Yankee, the Hoosier, and the Forty-niner, has been passing away, and a new America taking its place. Whether the new America is a better America is a question not yet decided. It is the question which I believe your generation will decide. When I say that it is a question not yet decided, I do not mean that we have not yet made up our minds about it, but rather that we are not yet in a position to make up our minds about it. The new America has not yet produced a clearly marked type of civilization, nor one stable enough to be compared profitably with other types. To do that will, I believe, be the work of your generation. To do it intelligently and well, it is essential that you understand your country. You must make yourself familiar with the kind of America with which you have to deal. I should like to contribute to that end by illustrating further what I mean by changing America.

II

America is still called the New World. It is natural, perhaps, to suppose that, in a new world, civilization will be more changing and fluid than in an old world. Australia is a still newer world, and may serve us as an illustration. Its territory is as large as ours, if we exclude Alaska and our island possessions. Its population is one fifth as large. The people there have the slogan, ‘Australia for the Australians.’ To-day we are crying, ‘America for the Americans.’ But between these two expressed ambitions there is a difference as wide as the oceans which separate us from them. For Australians are nearly one hundred per cent British. Australia for the Australians means, therefore, a land for a people whose ideas are the same, not only when t hey look forward, but also when they look backward. It means a land for a people who have a common outlook upon life based upon a common past. It is as if we said that ‘America for the Americans’ means a land for the kind of people who fought the War of Independence or who fought the Civil War. Australia may succeed in realizing her ambition. We can have no similar ambition with success. The time has long since passed when America could have been made the land for those people for whom the history of the United States would be the settled background of their life and thoughts. For long ago we opened our doors wide to the peoples of the world and said, ‘Come if you want freedom, or if you want an opportunity.’ We have tried, on a scale never before matched, to make a nation out of peoples with no common history and with no other spur to unity than the common chance to make something of themselves. We have let anybody make America mean what he liked.

Let me illustrate this from a vivid experience of my own. I met one evening, as I was going south on Fourth Avenue, the hordes of people poured out from the great lofts of the district between Fourteenth and Twenty-third Streets and Fourth and Sixth Avenues. I looked into the faces of strange and foreign men. I saw no signs of friendship or intimacy. I felt profoundly solitary, as if the whole world of aliens were going north and I alone of all my kind were going south. America was to me a British colony grown independent and strong. What was it to those thousands of faces so expressionless to me? Something like terror seized me, as I realized that all they and I had in common was a chance to be something. Would they spare me in a contest, because their fathers and mine had long ago been brothers in a common cause? Was there between them and me any remembrances of common days, which knit men together in sympathy and confidence? All I saw was alien, and I felt an outcast from my own land.

And what did they think, if they thought of me? Did they say, ‘See this descendant of a bourgeois civilization, this respectable person, with his morals of hypocrisy, hugging his property as if it were sacred, going to courts of law for justice and to constitutions for precedents, calling himself American when he is only a smug Englishman abroad! What have we in common with him — we of the proletariat and the revolution, we of the new age and the new order?’

Had they so spoken, I should doubtless have replied, in the mood I then was in, ‘New age and new order! Poor children! You are but venting, now you have t he chance, your age-long opposition to tyrannies I have never known. America is not the revolution. She is the fruit of revolution accomplished while your fathers still dreamed of freedom. She is the offspring of a people who laid the foundations of liberty centuries ago, and have built upon them steadily, while your ancestors have bowed in homage to men they called lord and sovereign.’

When I was a boy in college, the Yankee farmer still existed, but he was without descendants. Children he had, but they were leaving the land. He remained with his memories. The Civil War was very real to him. The War of Independence was almost as real, for there over his door hung the musket his grandfather had fired at the Redcoats. The French and Indian war was a real tradition for him. The Mayflower had brought his ancestors to the land.

But now he is almost gone. In his place there are Americans; but they have not New England names. The Mayflower means nothing to them. Lexington and Concord and Bull Run and Gettysburg wake no emotion in their breasts. They have the look of a people lately freed from oppression. The thing that makes them feel, that quickens their pulses, that brings the fire to their eyes is the memory neither of New England nor of Old England. It is the memory of a torn and parceled nation, of injustice done them by the strong, of glories torn from them, of blood shed in vain. To them America is a land without a history. Or, better, their history, the background of their ideas, is not the history and the background of New England. With the real New Englander they have no past in common, no bonds of sympathy formed by common traditions and a common ancestry.

Go with me to our Northwest. How well I remember the neighbors of my boyhood in Michigan, preparing for an emigration to Dakota. Their name was Taylor. Daily I was at their house, watching the preparations, for one of the boys and I had been chums. How I envied him! How I coveted his revolver and his rifle! We talked of the pioneers, of the great Americans who had followed in the trail of Lewis and Clark, and had begun t he making of the Great West. We talked of the Indian wars. How splendid to be a pioneer!

What became of him, I do not know. But later I, too, went to the Northwest. The leading citizens were still the kind of people that Taylor and I talked about. I have met the pioneer. One doctor, I remember, who was educated in an Eastern college and had been a student of Pasteur; who had driven smallpox from the state; who had lived his active days on horseback; in whose library was the literature of the world. He used to talk of the days when the pioneer was in his prime, when America was in the saddle. But around him and those like him was growing up a quite different America, which was not the East transplanted. It was a new Scandinavia. The Northwest for its people was not the continuation of the history of the pioneer, as it was to my friend the doctor: it was a chance to continue something else.

The America of to-day has lost the sense of a single and unified tradition. Not only has she lost it as a common possession, but she maintains it with difficulty even among those whose rightful inheritance it is: those, I mean, to whom the traditions of the English people and the English language are the vitalizing memories of their outlook upon life.

Let me take myself as an example. My father was born in Reading, England; he was educated in an English school, and nourished on the British Constitution. I was born in Canada, but went to school in Michigan. My college days were spent at Amherst. Then for three years I was a student at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and for two years after that a student abroad. On my return, I was called to a post in the University of Minnesota and from there I was called to Columbia.

But what can now be said of my past? There is none of my family left in Reading, where my father was born; none in Windsor, where I was born; none in Michigan, where my childhood was passed; none in Minnesota, where my first child was born. There is no place in the world where I have any sense of really belonging, although I can remember yet, with a kind of thrill, my mother telling me, when I was a boy, that her father was born in New Hampshire in the year Washington died.

And my life is a sample of millions — a life utterly devoid of any real attachment to a house, a piece of land, or a place of any sort. I am a man without a country, in any real sense, although I am an American citizen. Most of the peoplewhom I call my friends, the people between whom and me there is a rich sympathy of ideas and hopes, arc like me. They, too, are people without a home. They dwell in tents pitched where their work calls them.

This dwelling in tents has had a marked influence on my ideas, just as I find it has had a marked influence on the ideas of my friends. I can best express that influence by saying that we are not very conservative, and we have largely forgotten the meaning of piety. When I say that we are not very conservative, I mean that there are few things which we regard as permanently settled, few things which we naturally take for granted. We are constantly reopening questions, constantly deciding the same question over and over again. We decide every Sunday whether we shall go to church, and every day whether we shall dress for dinner. We are constantly discussing how to educate our children. All the way from little to great matters, we exhibit this trait. We are not like people who have made up their minds, but like people who are making them up over and over again. We are consequently tolerant and lenient toward others, who by their ancestry and training are radically different from us in their outlook and ambit ions. We have a great tendency to let others have their way, even when we don’t approve of it. In short, we lead the experimental life and not the life of settled habits and convictions. We are tent-dwellers in the land of ideas.

When I say that we have largely forgotten the meaning of piety, I mean that our loyalties are not based on the common natural ties that bind men together and to the places where they dwell. There are few shrines to which we make pilgrimages. There are few sacred places from which we keep the hand of change. Our interest in the old and the venerable is more like that of the collector than like that of the lover. Partings with us are habits and not ceremonies. Our loyalties are matters of the will, of deciding to stand by, to work for a cause. They are not the natural outbursts of a devoted soul. Attachments by sentiment are so rare with us that we call them sentimental.

I am not speaking of all Americans, but I am speaking of millions of them, and millions who would claim that they are more American than the Italians, or French, or Scandinavians, or Poles among us, because they are descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers, or of people like them. And these millions, who think of themselves as the real Americans, think also that these other millions, who are so unlike them, should none the less exclaim in the words of Ruth, ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.’

There was a time when the history and civilization of America was genuinely the continuation of the history and civilization of our original thirteen states. That time is past. The continuity of our civilization has been broken by a radically changing America — an America unchecked by the restraints of tradition, an America eager to lead the experimental life, an America where, not the memories of the past, but the promises of the future, quicken the pulses of its citizens.

III

There are decided advantages in living in a land where opportunity is so large and untrammeled. Tradition has worn few paths in which we feel obliged to walk. We are exceptionally free to make our own choices, from the choice of a career to the choice of a wife. We dare not attempt to claim personal position on account of the worth or position of our ancestors. We can claim it only on our own merits and accomplishments. Nor does an unsatisfactory ancestry hang like a halter round our necks. The names of our men great in posit ion or great in wealth are, to a remarkable extent, names of men who owe their position or their wealth, not to the position or wealth of their ancestors, but to their own energy and resourcefulness. And all this vast opportunity has been thrown open to the world with a generosity and prodigality unmatched in history. America means, and has meant consistently from her foundation as a state, a genuine hope for mankind. We have, therefore, a most precious kind of freedom, which few have enjoyed in a world where custom so often lies upon us like a weight.

Yet we must confess that this great freedom of the individual to make the most of himself has seriously interfered with real greatness in public life. Few of us are proud of our politics, although, morally considered, politics should be the supreme achievement of a democratic people. But with us, public servants are, as a rule, men of inferior ability and almost no imagination. We have not made public life the avenue to distinction which great men naturally seek. The noun politics and the adjective political are termsof reproach. So true is this that one of our leading universities has changed the name of its courses on politics to courses on government, to avoid misunderstanding.

Now such carelessness of public life is possible only in a country with no conscious traditions, and where everyone is engaged, first of all, in making the most of himself. ‘Make the most of yourselves’ is the best advice that can be given to young men; but to make the most of yourselves supremely, it is necessary that you affect public life in a way that ennobles it. The most of one’s self can never be made in a country where public life is not sustained on a high level. With all our wealth of opportunity, we have never produced in quantity, and rarely in quality, such public men as England has produced. Our great men are found mainly in the private walks of life.

Not only is our public life not on a high level, but our public opinion is whimsical. In my youth a bicycle was a boy’s toy; in my young manhood it was a national passion; and to-day it is a vehicle for occasional use. In my youth in the Middle West alcohol and good society were strangers; but not so long ago the golf club and the country club possessed society, and the highball became a social sacrament. Now prohibition has swept the country and lodged in the Constitution.

We do not know what public opinion really is, or who really supports it. It is so unformed and disorganized, so lacking in real leadership, so unsupported by disciplined thought, that almost any well-conducted propaganda can seize it, and temporarily control it to almost any end. The reason is again that we are not in the habit of thinking in terms of public life. We are thinking in terms of individual opportunity so exclusively, that, when we face a question of public importance, we have no clearly thought-out judgment upon it. Our attitude toward petitions, for instance, is, habitually, that they should be signed; for we think there must be something in them, since somebody has drawn them up. An energetic commuter, who traveled by the morning train, which I am in the habit of taking to the city, wanted it scheduled at an earlier hour. He circulated a petition, which many of his fellow commuters signed, to oblige him. The time was changed, to the great inconvenience of nearly all the people to whom the time really mattered. They had to get it changed back again after several weeks of acute distress. And the most amusing thing in this whole performance was that the original petitioner did not use the train after his petition was granted.

This is a trivial illustration, but it is typical. We make a great mistake w hen we say that public opinion controls in our country. It does not control; it is controlled by whims and factions, because so few are seriously engaged in enlightening it and leading it into a position where whims and factions will be controlled by it.

What I have said about politics and public opinion could be repeated about art, education, and morals. But I shall write further only about morals, for I have had much occasion to observe the morals of college students in particular. By morals I do not here mean the habits of life which touch vice in any of its forms. I mean rather the habits of life which control choice and lead desire.

Let me illustrate what I mean from my experience as a teacher. After having learned that students will not have their work done seasonably unless a definite time-limit is set, I decided to set such a limit for the written work required in a course in the history of philosophy. Three weeks were allowed for the preparation of an essay, although half that time was ample. I knew, however, that times are not always convenient for students. At the expiration of the time a student came to ask for an extension. He said that it was not his fault that his paper was not ready. He had expected to write it during the last week; but unexpectedly the glee club decided to give a special concert, and he had been so busy rehearsing for the concert that he had no time to write the paper. I told him that I could not accept that excuse, because it was no excuse at all. He thought me most unreasonable, and it was some time, and after some heat, before we came to an understanding. It seemed never to have occurred to him that he had made a choice, and should abide by the choice he had made. After I had made it very clear to him that I respected his choice and bore him no ill-will for making it; that very likely his choice was a wise one; but that singing in the glee club was not and could never be the writing of a paper in philosophy, he reached the same conclusion that I had reached. He saw that, instead of taking himself the responsibility for his own choice, he was trying to make me take it. That was a revelation to him. He was, quite unconsciously to himself, in the habit of expecting that, so long as he did nothing really vicious, others would see that he never suffered inconvenience from the choices he might make. His morality had consisted solely in abstaining from vice and crime. It had never consisted in controlling his choices and desires. He was a very typical student, and he was a most likeable fellow, who always did well what he did do. His lack of positive morality was not the fault of his classmates, but the individual reflection of the common attit ude of students untrained in a sense of public responsibility.

And I am led to believe that he is typical of our morals generally. As a rule, unless our choices are positively bad, we expect to be free from responsibility for their consequences. But they have consequences, and somebody else has to take them, often to the great detriment of society. This should have been a country where industrial progress was made sanely and with an eye to large public advantage. But it has been made immorally in the sense I am here meaning. Society is to-day reaping the consequences.

And t he strangest t hing in it all is the preaching of the doctrine that it is society t hat is responsible for capitalistic oppression, for labor unrest, for the I.W.W., for poverty, and for disease. The truth is that society is the victim of ‘ passing the buck,’ as we colloquially put it. We have all been so busy in making the most of ourselves and in looking upon society as the tolerant spectator of us while doing it, that we have never developed a genuine public morality or a keen sense of individual responsibility. The remedies proposed for the consequences are rarely in the direction of a sound morality. They are more often in the direction of the referendum and recall; but unless there exists an enlightened public opinion and a responsible public morality, the referendum and recall amount only to ‘passing the buck.’

These things have not always been so in our country. The generation which is just passing away knew a quite different America. The America which had consistently and steadily developed from the time the Constitution was signed; which knew its own past and thereon built the hopes of its future; which was so sure of what it wanted to be that it withstood the shock of civil war, has passed away, and a changing America has taken its place. That changing America is your inheritance.

IV

What will you make of your inheritance? Your generation has lived through, in a few years and during the impressionable period of youth, far more than most men live through in a lifetime. It has carried America overseas, to defend principles which our country has always claimed to stand for and which men everywhere expect us to maintain. Your generation has fought side by side with peoples of the Old World against the last threatening power of the Old World’s oldest wrong. Yours is no ordinary generation. It is in wonder and expectation, therefore, that the question is asked, ‘What will you make of your inheritance?’

That is a question for you, not for your elders, to answer. Yours, not theirs, will be the America of the future. That does not mean, however, that they have nothing to say to you. It does not mean that experience has nothing to teach. Least of ail does it mean that, when we are called upon to consider something of the significance of college in a man’s life, there is nothing to voice except wonder and expectation. No prophet can tell you what the new America is to be, but there is no need of a prophet to tell you that, without disciplined preparation, your share in shaping it is not likely to be significant.

What then can be said? One thing, certainly, and that is a caution. Beware of accepting any of the social philosophies which arc, and will be, offered you in abundance. Changing America, and the alluring prospect of perhaps speedily entering into a new and a better world, have aroused once more the old passion for Utopia. Plato put the perfect state in the sky, in order that men might look up to it. You are, and will be, offered many a plan of a perfect state, which you will be expected at once to put into the form of human institutions, in disregard of the fact that human institutions grow out of human needs and frailties and compromises toward an ideal, and not out of ideals, as magic forces which have power to alter the very animal substance of all man’s life. Love is a wild passion, born of the body’s desires and the allurements of sense; but it can be tamed by discipline, by chastity, by marriage, until it leads men to behold what a glorious thing it might be if, free and unrestrained, it swept them aloft. Thus disciplined and seen from that height, the loves of men become transformed.

But free love wrought into a human institution is not an ideal. It is a surrender to the animal in us and fellows us with brutes. A free and ideal society is subject to the same law. For society, like love, has its springs in the body. Attained through discipline and control of animal needs, the ideal of a perfectly free society can be a precious human possession. It can make man tolerant and wise. But convert it into constitutions which are not themselves the outgrowth of that discipline and control, and it means barbarism, not civilization. Do not think, therefore, that it is your business speedily to adopt a social philosophy, or to join in promoting those programmes of social reform which promise you that their immediate enactment into human institutions will secure among men a society which is ideal and free.

But it is your business to study them and understand them. They express men’s longings, desires, and ambitions. They indicate repeatedly where wrongs and in justice lie, which cry for remedy. They should be studied, therefore, in the attitude neither of sentimental enthusiasm nor of rational contempt. They should be studied with sympathy and liberality. It is not, however, a new social philosophy, but a recovery of what it has lost, that changing America needs. The caution I have written has been written to bring you back to that which I have implied from the beginning — namely, that no civilization is great unless it is steadied by a great tradition, which ennobles public life, gives form and stability to public opinion, and creates a recognized public morality. These civic excellences are not the outstanding traits of changing America. It is your business to assist in making them such. This you cannot do by being what is called to-day reactionary. You cannot expect the millions among us, whose history and traditions arc not the history and traditions of the America that has so largely passed away — you cannot expect them to adopt that old history and those old traditions as their own. Neither can you expect yourself to do it. You and they can, through the knowledge of what America has been, be brought to admire and prize it, as you can be brought to admire and prize Greek civilization, or any other that has made a real contribution to human progress. But all that is quite a different thing from the habit of reliving it in the life of every day. Continuity with it has been snapped, and, in a very real sense, a fresh beginning has to be made. Your college course affords you a genuine opportunity to acquire those habits which are important in the making of it.

You and your classmates represent changing America. The history and traditions of your college are real to comparatively few of you. Yet there you will achieve a tradition. You will achieve it, not by adopting, to begin with, some theory of what a college is or ought to be, or by finding such a theory thrust upon you, but in a much simpler and also profounder way. You will achieve it by starting with what you are, working with what you have, and going on from where you stand. All this you will do in college. And when you leave, you will find that the spirit of your alma mater, which has watched over so many generations of students, has watched over you and made her history your possession for ever.

I shall not attempt to ant icipate that experience for you, but I would insist on the method of it. You cannot make the college your own by studying its history, by waving its banners, or by shouting with your mates. You must first have a reason for studying, waving, and shouting, and that reason must grow out of something besides enthusiasm and admiration: it must grow out of a habit of life. You must start with what you are. Writing your name on the rolls of the college has been a sacrament, but it has not wrought a miracle. You and your classmates are heterogeneous, different from one another in preparation, in ability, in social gifts, in physical power, in the amount of money at your command. It is with these many inequalities that you must start, and not with the notion that, since your college is democratic, its name has washed your inequalities away. Far from it: it has emphasized them. It has given to every power you possess an opport unity to be made the most of, so that college is the easiest place in the world in which to go to the heights or to go to the devil. You start, therefore, with what you are, and not with some magical change in you, which your matriculation has brought about.

You must work with what you have. This is both a necessity and a challenge. Your college gives you, as I have already said, an opportunity for the exploitation of differing powers. It is not, however, an opportunity in general which it gives you. The opport unity is made definite and particular. The classroom, the field, the societies, many varied forms of student life, already exist as so many established institutions through which alone your opportunity can be seized. Some of them you may not like, but you cannot change them overnight. You cannot escape them by running away from them or neglecting them. You must work with them. By working with them, you can help to lift college life up to a high level, create a college opinion which will lead and control the whims that otherwise would have students at their mercy, and establish a college standard of morality which will make the responsibilities of college men their pride and satisfaction.

You must go on from where you stand. This is a progressive necessity. Starting with what you are and working with what you have is a matter of going on continuously. You use the past to rise on. You do not let it go until your outstretched hand has firmly grasped the next position. Thus you give purpose and progress to your movements. It would take a miracle to make a senior out of a boy who had never been a freshman. Yet something like the miracle would happen if the status of senior should involve no memories of verdant days outgrown, and no sympathy with immaturity surpassed. Your progress as a class, from year to year, is thus a symbol of what it means to go on from where you stand. Transferred to the many interests of your college days, it means an accumulating and expanding purpose.

This method, which may be learned in college, your generation should transfer to the nation. You and your classmates, as I have said, represent changing America. The problems which you have to solve in college, so far as they concern associated living, are alike in kind with those which the nation has to solve. You have for their solution a method which is not the reduction of a speculation to practice, but the proved method of successful human experience. Substitute for the college the nation, in all that I have said about that method, and you will discover for yourself how you can gain in college an experience which can be transferred to that larger life which you will enter after a few years as a freshman again. Hold fast to it. Do not, for a moment, let yourself believe that what changing America needs first of all is a revolution, a new constitution and new institutions. Start with what you are, work with what, you have, and go on from where you stand.

What you have, I have tried to tell you. To work with it, you have institutions that were not made in a day. They are the results of a long and tragic struggle for freedom. They are to be used, not set aside, if changing America is to resume the path of a great civilization. Working with them, and going on progressively from where you stand, your generation will indeed achieve a new America, to which many different peoples have contributed, which owns and recognizes a great tradition, and which has found its divinity, to whom shrines will be built and pilgrimages will be made. The past will live again through appropriation. The future will illustrate a steady purpose. What changing America needs is not more heat under the melting-pot, but an intelligent method of using the metals given to it. But our figures should not be taken from a smelter. Men, women, and children are too precious. Our enterprise is humane: progressively to develop, by working with what we are and what we have, the steadying devotion to a great society to which we have discovered that we all belong.