The First Commencement Address by Christopher Morley

Story type: Essay(Delivered to Cain and Abel, the first graduating class of the Garden of Eden Normal School.)My young friends–It is a privilege to be permitted to addres …

Story type: Essay

(Delivered to Cain and Abel, the first graduating class of the Garden of Eden Normal School.)

My young friends–It is a privilege to be permitted to address you this morning, for I am convinced that never in the world’s history did the age beckon with so eager a gesture to the young men on the threshold of active life. Never indeed in the past, and certainly never in the future, was there or will there be a time more deeply fraught with significance. And as I gaze upon your keen faces it seems almost as though the world had amassed all the problems that now confront us merely in order to give you tasks worthy of your prowess.

The world, I think I may safely say, is smaller now than ever before. The recent invention of young women, something quite new in the way of a social problem, has introduced a hitherto undreamed-of complexity into human affairs. The extreme rapidity with which ideas and thoughts now circulate, due to the new invention of speech, makes it probable that what is said in Eden to-day will be known in the land of Nod within a year. The greatest need is plainly for big-visioned and purposeful men, efficient men, men with forward-looking minds. I hope you will pattern after your admirable father in this respect; he truly was a forward-looking man, for he had nothing to look back on.

You are aware, however, that your father has had serious problems to deal with, and it is well that you should consider those problems in the light of the experiences you are about to face. One of his most perplexing difficulties would never have come upon him if he had not fallen into a deep sleep. I counsel you, therefore, be wary not to overslumber. The prizes of life always come to those who press resolutely on, undaunted by fatigue and discouragement. Another of your father’s failings was probably due to the fact that he was never a small boy and thus had no chance to work the deviltry out of his system. You yourselves have been abundantly blessed in this regard. I think I may say that here, in our Normal Academy, you have had an almost ideal playground to work off those boyish high spirits, to perpetrate those mischievous pranks that the world expects of its young. Remember that you are now going out into the mature work of life, where you will encounter serious problems.

As you wend your way from these accustomed shades into the full glare of public life you will do so, I hope, with the consciousness that the eyes of the world are upon you. The sphere of activity in which you may find yourselves called upon to perform may be restricted, but you will remember that not failure but low aim is base. You will hold a just balance between the conflicting tendencies of radicalism and conservatism. You will endeavour to secure for labour its due share in the profits of labour. You will not be forgetful that all government depends in the last resort on the consent of the governed. These catch words in the full flush of your youth you may be inclined to dismiss as truisms, but I assure you that 10,000 years from now men will be uttering them with the same air of discovery.

It is my great pleasure to confer upon you both the degree of bachelor of arts and to pray that you may never bring discredit upon your alma mater.

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