Sunday, April 09, 2006

Princeton for the Nation's Service

Princeton for the Nation's Service. Before becoming the President of the USA, Woodrow Wilson was the President of Princeton University. He was inaugurated there on October 25, 1902. He gave a famous speech on this occasion which was widely circulated and admired.

From the speech:

Six years ago I had the honor of standing in this place to speak of the memories with which Princeton men heartened themselves as they looked back a century and a half to the founding of their college. To-day my task is more delicate, more difficult. Standing here in the light of those older days, we must now assess our present purposes and powers and sketch the creed by which we shall be willing to live in the days to come. We are but men of a single generation in the long l ife of an institution which shall still be young when we are dead, but while we live her life is in us. What we conceive she conceives. In planning for Princeton, moreover, we are planning for the country. The service of institutions of learning is not pr ivate but public. It is plain what the nation needs as its affairs grow more and more complex and its interests begin to touch the ends of the earth. It needs efficient and enlightened men. The universities of the country must take part in supplying them.

American universities serve a free nation whose progress, whose power, whose prosperity, whose happiness, whose integrity depend upon individual initiative and the sound sense and equipment of the rank and file. Their history moreove r, has set them apart to a character and service of their own. They are not mere seminaries of scholars. They never can be. Most of them, the greatest of them and the most distinguished, were first of all great colleges before they became universities; an d their task is two-fold: the production of a great body of informed and thoughtful men and the production of a small body of trained scholars and investigators. It is one of their functions to take large bodies of young men up to the places of outlook wh ence the world of thought and affairs is to be viewed; it is another of their functions to take some men, a little more mature, a little more studious, men self-selected by aptitude and industry, into the quiet libraries and laboratories where the close c ontacts of study are learned which yield the world new insight into the processes of nature, of reason, and of the human spirit. These two functions are not to be performed separately, but side by side, and are to be informed with one spirit, the spirit o f enlightenment, a spirit of learning which is neither superficial nor pedantic, which values life more than it values the mere acquisitions of the mind.

No comments: