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at once intricate and imposing. Upon every hill, school houses stand open to the children of rich and poor, while her University, the capstone of her educational system, is now a potent factor in the life of her people. As we stand today in this splendid city, amidst its evidences of wealth and culture, our minds and hearts turn in veneration to those who made these things possible; to that stalwart body of men whose courage and self-sacrifice, whose faith and foresight wrote large the destiny of the little republic; and to those men of later day whose broad culture and mature wisdom, whose patient industry and untiring devotion to principle placed the tottering republic upon a foundation which is immovable, and touched the rough structure of the new made State into lines of symmetry and beauty. These are the men who left the haunts of peace and culture in the east and turned their faces toward the west and sought here a land where they could build for themselves a larger and freer home. Scout and sage came side by side, nay rather were many of them both sage and scout; men of classic culture and deep learning with a passion of liberty, fighting and building like ancient Jew upon the walls of the Holy City. In a hostile country, exposed to dangers from without and within, the prey of the savage and the dupe of governmental deception, they kept the faith which they had pledged to a faithless sovereign until faith in the government was folly. Then the indomitable courage and unconquerable will of the Anglo-Saxon asserted themselves, threw off the yoke of a government which had ceased to protect and erected for themselves a republic of their own.
Happy was it for us that the men whose spirits controlled in the march of those stirring events were university men; men of broad culture, deep learning, mature wisdom, and rich experience, with an earnest devotion to the principles of justice and right. One writer says that the proportion of college bred men among those pioneers was greater than among the people of a much later day or even of today. To that fact we are indebted for the broad lines of our State structure, and especially our invaluable system of public schools culminating at last in our State University. Mere men of affairs, who look to the present good and the present profit, would have lacked the breadth of vision necessary to make provision for a distant future. But these men standing there in the midst of a wilderness, with a breadth akin to inspiration, saw the day when the wilderness would blossom as the rose beneath the touch of honest industry, and when, with her broad boundaries, Texas would number a mighty people with all the political, social and commercial problems that vex the human race. They knew, as George Eliot says, that "Let ignorance start how it will, it must run the same round of low appetites, poverty, slavery and superstition;" that if the great State they loved so well was in years to come to be worthy of the price they paid for her liberty, her sons and daughters must have their minds broadened and deepened, their hearts fired and purified, their mental and spiritual vision enlarged by contact with those deep truths which lie at the foundation of racial well being. And so with a firm faith in the future greatness of this State they laid the foundations thereof broad and deep.
The day of her greatness has come, and all around us are the evidences of its prosperous presence. In this place where are gathered the sons and daughters of that institution which our fathers founded, in the midst of this splendid company, gathered from the historic places that dot our State, let us today do loving obeisance to all those noble figures from Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” to the “Old Alcalde,” who so recently fell asleep full of years and honors in the midst of the people whom he loved so well. It was the custom in ancient Rome, on her holidays, to bring the images of her dead heroes out of their accustomed places and set them before the people, and there recount the story of their lives, in order to inspire the youth to lives of virtue and deeds of valor. And so today would I have you remember the past, in order that from the contemplations of this hour, we may go forth with firmer purpose and nobler aims to the labor that lies before us. With a past rich in historic memories, a present that justifies her claim to prominence, our State presses to a larger life and a nobler ideal. In that future it will be the privilege and the duty of her University men and women to play a most important part. If the broad minded founders of our State had not expected such returns, surely, they would not have devoted so large a part of the State's revenues to the purpose of education. Let us look well to the manner in which we discharge the obligation. As the University stands as the conservatory of the best thought in all the departments of life, so ought her sons and daughters carry with them from her sacred precincts high purpose and right principle, and stand in every community as the representatives of those
things which make for the safety, the well being, the progress and the elevation of the human race.
I am aware it has been said that university instruction does not pay, and it takes in vigor what it gives in culture. This is not true, This age is a practical one, and the commercial spirit is abroad in the land. This spirit measures men by their possessions. Its vision is direct and concentrated. It does not view the distant scene. It is narrow, but forceful. Culture broadens vision and gives a correct idea of value. Therefore, in its estimate some things diminish in value. They are counted not worth the strife necessary to possess them, and their possession may be dangerous. Culture is rational and conservative, but not cowardly. It moves cautiously, but surely. The history of the race shows that university men have not only been dreamers, but actors in the drama of life. Let me say that dreamers have made this world habitable. There was a time when things we count most common now in life were but a dream. This splendid land of ours and all it holds for the race was but a dream of the inspired sailor of Genoa, but the dreamer saw the vision and placing his hand upon the helm, turned the prow of his frail ship towards the west and held it there until he saw a new world rise before him from the bosom of the deep. From the brain of that silent thinker, who begged his way from court to court, leaped a new continent, whereon a sturdy people, catching up the smoldering torch of human freedom, was destined to set a beacon upon the hills of New England and Virginia to light the peoples of the world into liberty and life.
There was a time when our commonest civil and religious rights, now deep laid in the foundations of our institutions, were but a dream. But men, with minds trained in the universities of the old world and the new, saw the vision and led the people by devious ways into the broad field of constitutional freedom. From the days of Moses, schooled in the wisdom of Egypt and Chaldea, learning still more among the solemn stillness of the wilderness, who amid the silence of mountain fastnesses heard the voice of his enslaved people, and saw the vision of better things, and led out that people to freedom and larger life, to the last struggle for social and industrial reform, the great majority of such movements have been inspired and controlled by men schooled in the universities or their equivalent. The lean and hungry Cassius has made many a Cæsar tremble.
Tyranny may defy an army, but it stands powerless before the pale face of the student. “Beware,” says Emerson, “when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. It is as when a conflagration has broken out in a great city, and no man knows what is safe or where it will end." These silent students of men and things, of principles and processes, in study and laboratory ever and anon give to the world some new idea or principle that revolutionizes society and makes life a new experience.
It was so when Bacon gave to the world a new principle. It was so when Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, when Ambrose Paré tied the first artery, when Simpson made chloroform practicable in surgery. It was so when Watts in the University of Glasgow gave the world the condensing engine, Stephenson the locomotive, Smith the screw propeller, and Koenig the steam printing press. It was so when Adam Smith taught the great doctrine of world-wide commerce; when John Howard woke Europe to a new humanity, and when Luther strove for liberty of conscience for Germany, and Knox fought for a free religion in Scotland.
The sons and daughters of our beloved institution, recipients of the fruits of the labors of those who fought and wrought for the future, should remember that they, too, owe a duty to the race; that aside from their own success and comfort, they should strive also for the prosperity and well-being of all men. As they bend above their various labors, let this thought inspire them with energy and earnestness that their lives may tell in a practical way, in the political, social and moral elevation of the people. No labor is commonplace. We should remember that we owe it to the race to refuse to be satisfied with present conditions in any department, and that we should press forward continually, not merely in order to secure bread for our mouths, but to find perchance some new process or principle, some new idea which shall make the practical life of every man freer and easier and happier. This moral purpose should be a new motive power in the life of every university man.
Some of them will find their labors confined to class room, to study or laboratory, cut off from the rank and file of men, but even here let the work be practical and pointed, directed to benefit and bless, to uplift and liberate all sorts and conditions of men. From the study of the student of philosophy, economics or deep religious truth, from the laboratory of the physicist or chemist in days that have gone, have come ideas that have blessed the world. Why not again? The circle of human knowledge is ever widening, the treasure chambers of human wisdom are one by one being unbarred, but only he that asketh receiveth, and only unto him who knocks shall they be opened.
Among those university men whose vocations bring them in contact with the masses of men and who have to deal practically with financial, commercial, political, social and moral problems, many fail to take any positive or definite part in these questions of general interest and importance. They are apt to withdraw into a life of their own which, however refined and pleasant, is not of practical value to the community. This should not be. The university man should take an active interest in all the departments of the life of his people, and the influence which he exerts should be positive and practical. His influence should be felt in the political, social and industrial and in the religious life of his people.
We boast that ours is a government of the people, for the people and by the people, and yet how often is it a government of the bosses, for the bosses and by the bosses. This fact arises from the indifference of the people, and lack of practical methods upon the part of the so-called better element. Indifference is a crime, and theoretical politics mere folly. Your place is not upon the lecture platform, making reform speeches for one hundred dollars a night, but it is in the primaries and at the polls. You are not too honest to be in politics, and if you are, your staying out will not purify them. Learned theses on reform and the political errors of the country never won an election and never will. Unless you are to be the easy prey of the practical politician, you must be able to meet him on his own ground. A righteous indignation at existing conditions will profit you nothing if it ends there. George Eliot puts wise words in the mouth of Felix Holt when he says, “Indignation is a fine war horse, but the war horse must be ridden by a man; it must be ridden by rationality, skill, courage, armed with the right weapons and taking definite aim.” It is not your duty to depend for a livelihood upon the uncertain fortunes of political warfare, but you owe it to the present and the future to spend your time and your influence in the protection of the political interests of your city, your State, and your nation. If you do not, you have no right to complain of any political degradation into which either may come.