VALEDICTORIAN SPEECH

BY

ELSIE SKINNER

 

BURDEN HIGH SCHOOL

CLASS OF 1904

 
 

Seniors of 1904

   
Ray The political hero
Carrol Our flag
George Uncivilized social etc.
Leevere Hamilton
Fred American inertia
Beatrice How far that little etc.
May Slaves
Mertyl Critical test of life
Elsie An ideal
 

 

 

Enthroned within the imagination, sits the sovereign, Ideal, as the product of all the capabilities of our inner consciousness. It is the impediment of the souls desire, whether high or low, according to the character of the individual. So we see that ideals are merely the things for which people aspire; but we all know that a very rough diamond with itís sharp edges and obstinate angles will receive a much higher polish than even a very smooth soap stone; and Ambassador Choate but repeated a truism when he said that the stuff a man is made of has more to do with his career than any education or environment.

Still the possibility of inherent ideals, supported by spiritual vigilance and courage are beyond the depths of psychological research, and no one knows to what height even a weak intellect may attain. Certainly education enlarges our horizon and perspective, and is a means of multiplying and elevating our ideals.

It is obvious that something more than the mere possession of ideals is required to make a life admirable; for life is not given for the mere sake of "living," but always with an ulterior aim and mans greatest duty to himself is cultivating that which is highest within him.

From the influence of ethical ideals in the conduct of life, have come all the great achievement that have served to place the science of government among the science which ameliorates mans sufferings and lessons his woe. The three hundred Greeks who so heroically held the pass at Thermopile against the invading Persians sought to hold it that Grecian freedom might be established on a broader foundation. The Roman soldiers who so violently encompassed Caesar on the day he overcame the Nervier displayed valor, which only comes from ethical ideals. The heroic struggle of the Netherlands against the despotism of King Phillips, one of the most heroic struggles in history, was primarily for their own liberties and civil rights.

Let us not omit that most important part in our own history of the American democracy, for itís directing force was the greatest ethical movement in the history of the human raceóa struggle for civil and religious freedom. None are more deserving of praise than those who came hither from the fires of civil and religious persecution in the old world to lay broader foundations for civil and religious freedom in the New. Leaving friends, and in many instances, all their worldly possessions, from almost all the civilized nations of the earth, some of itís best citizens fled to the New World to strive for a common brotherhood, adapting as their own that Christian ideal, "peace on earth and good will to men."

The vast multitudes that came were actuated by a noble desire to secure for all other men the same measure of liberty they sought for themselves, that liberty conferred by equality of membership in a free church and equality of citizenship in a free state. From Mass Bay to Georgia many theories of government were evolved and many men of many minds were engaged in the work of settling the continent, but through all instinctively ran that which still lives in our hearts today and which we hope will continue to live until the end of time, the ethical ideal, that all men are created equal and are equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In other lands at other times, and even in our own land, the absence of high ethical ideals has occasioned the most deplorable consequences. The Spanish government of Mexico and Peru had no higher ideal than that of enriching itís self by the greatest and most barbarous sacrifice of human blood, with the sword in one hand and the Bible in the other, blasphemously and cruelly slaughtered all the innocent followers of Guatamazo. Today the names of Cortez and Pezarro are honored names in Spanish archives, though impartial history has given them the place they truly merited. But let us not point to examples of human depravity among the Latin nations, while we through our mantles over bloodstains caused by Anglo Saxon hands, for Spanish ideals were no lower than those exhibited by Great Britain in South Africa. Too in our own beloved land just before the civil war or the war of the rebellion, there were two opposite ideals. The profits of slave labor had so warped the judgments of the people of the South as to have caused them to believe that the colored race might rightly be held in slavery forever, but the other and higher ideal of the people of the North was so directly opposite, that friction through contiguity was unavoidable and it finally resulted in a general conflagration. Doubtless Abraham Lincoln foresaw it when in his presage of the future he said, "This nation cannot permanently endure, half slave and half free."

From inception, civilization has always been responsive to the dictations of high ideals, and in religion, history furnishes no better example of the influence and power a single noble ideal than that which prompted Martin Lutherís bold opposition to the papal assumption. Being a monk in the Roman Catholic Church and a Professor of Theology in the University of Wittenberg, he was afforded the best opportunities to become acquainted with the doctrines and practices of the church which so shocked his religious nature and thus aroused him to a bold denial of the Popes rights, and he publicly declared the remission of sins to and from God alone.

This began the great reformation that resulted in the withdrawal of the Tentonie nations from the Church of Rome and the establishment of the Protestant Church almost throughout the world. The greatest reformation the world has ever known springing from the high ideal of a single individualóbut, while vast importance should be attached to those great ideals that have so swayed public opinion, in some instances establishing governments and in others destroying them. They are scarcely more worthy of our consideration than many of those ideals which custom causes us to regard as trivial, but which effects the happiness of society and the family circle more immediately, and have to do with daily conduct.

What a transformation is experiences in passing from the lower into the higher atmosphere of poetry and nausea, sympathy and love, or into the exalted regions of sculpture, painting and inspired ideals.

Still through our paltry stir and strife, glows down the wished ideal, and longing moulds in clay what life curves in the marble Real; to let the new life in we know, desire be the portal; perhaps the longing to be so, helps make the soul immortal.

End

 

( On the back of the notepad this was written in was the following.  )

The quality of mercy is not strained; it drops as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed. It blesses him that gives and him that takes. Still on that evening when pleasure fills up to the highest top, sparkle each heart and each cup; whereíre my path is, be it gloomy or bright, my soul, happy friend shall be with you that night, shall join in your rivals, your sport, and your wiles, and return to me beaming all out with your smiles. Too blessed, if it answers that amid the gay, cheer some, kind voice had answered, "I wish she were here." Let fate do her worst, there are relics of joy, bright dreams of the past that she cannot destroy, and which come in the nighttime of sorrow and care to bring back the features that joy used to have.  Long, long be the heart with such memories  be filled like the vase in which roses have once been distilled; you may break or you may ruin the vase if you fall, but her scent on the roses will cling

 

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