« PreviousContinue »
portant. The things that are important are the rather commonplace, the rather humdrum, virtues that in their sum are designated as character. If you have in public life men of good ability, not geniuses, but men of good abilities, with character — and, gentlemen, you must include as one of the most important elements of character common sense if you possess such men, the Government will go on very well.
1 I have spoken only of the great successes; but what I have said applies just as much to the success that is within the reach of almost every one of us. I think that any man who has had what is regarded in the world as a great success must realize that the element of chance has played a great part in it. Of course a man has to take advantage of his opportunities; but the opportunities have to come. If there is not the war, you the great general; if there is not a great occasion you don't get the great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in times of peace no one would have known his name now. The great crisis must come, or no man has the chance to develop great qualities.
There are exceptional cases, of course, where there is a man who can do just one thing, such as a man who can play a dozen games of chess or juggle with four rows of figures at once - and as a rule he can do nothing else. A man of this type can do nothing unless in the one crisis for which his powers fit him. But normally the man who makes the great success when the emergency arises is the man who would have made a fair success in any event. I believe that the man who is really happy in a great position in what we call a career is the man who would also be happy and regard his life as successful
if he had never been thrown into that position. If a man lives a decent life and does his work fairly and squarely so that those dependent on him and attached to him are better for his having lived, then he is a success, and he deserves to feel that he has done his duty and he deserves to be treated by those who have had greater success as nevertheless having shown the fundamental qualities that entitle him to respect. We have in the United States an organization composed of the men who fortyfive years ago fought to a finish the great Civil War. One thing that has always appealed to me in that organization is that all of the men admitted are on a perfect equality provided the records show that their duty was well done. Whether a man served as a lieutenantgeneral or an eighteen-year-old recruit, so long as he was able to serve for six months and did his duty in his appointed place, then he is called Comrade and stands on an exact equality with the other men. The same principle should shape our associations in ordinary civil life.
I am not speaking cant to you. I remember once sitting at a table with six or eight other public officials, and each was explaining how he regarded being in public life, how only the sternest sense of duty prevented him from resigning his office, and how the strain of working for a thankless constituency was telling upon him, and nothing but the fact that he felt he ought to sacrifice his comfort to the welfare of his country kept him in the arduous life of statesmanship. It went round the table until it came to my turn. This was during my first term of office as President of the United States. I said: “Now, gentlemen, I do not wish there to be any misun
derstanding. I like my job, and I want to keep it for four years longer."
I don't think any President ever enjoyed himself more than I did. Moreover, I don't think any ex-President ever enjoyed himself more. I have enjoyed my life and my work because I thoroughly believe that success - the real success - does not depend upon the position you hold, but upon how you carry yourself in that position. There is no man here to-day who has not the chance so to shape his life after he leaves this university that he shall have the right to feel, when his life ends, that he has made a real success of it; and his making a success of it does not in the least depend upon the prominence of the position he holds. Gentlemen, I thank you, and I am glad I have violated the poet's hope and have preached to you.! 4.1 Address at Cambridge Union, Cambridge, England, May 26, 1910. From African and European Addresses. Copyright, 1910. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, publishers.
I UNLESS democracy is based on the principle of service by everybody who claims the enjoyment of any right, it is not true democracy at all. The man who refuses to render, or is ashamed to render, the necessary service is not fit to live in a democracy. And the man who demands from another a service which he himself would esteem it dishonorable or unbecoming to render is to that extent not a true democrat. No man has a right to demand a service which he does not regard as honorable to render; nor has he a right to demand it unless he pays for it in some way, the payment to include respect for the man who renders it. Democracy must mean mutuality of service rendered, and of respect for the service rendered.
A leading Russian revolutionist (who is, of course, like every true friend of freedom, an opponent of the Bolsheviki) recently came to this country from Vladivostock. He traversed the Siberian railway. The porter on his train refused to get him hot water or to black his boots; stating with true Bolshevistic logic that democracy meant that nobody must do anything for any one else and that anyhow his union would turn him out if he rendered such service.
Now, this Bolsheviki porter was foolish with a folly that can only be induced by prolonged and excessive indulgence in Bolshevism or some American analogue. But the root trouble in producing his folly was the fact
that under the old system the men whose boots the porter blacked looked down on him for blacking them. Are we entirely free from this attitude in America? Until we are we may as well make up our minds that to just that extent we are providing for the growth of Bolshevism here. No man has a right to ask or accept any service unless under changed conditions he would feel that he could keep his entire self-respect while rendering it. Service which carries with it the slightest implication of social abasement should not be rendered.
For a number of years I lived on a ranch in the oldtime cattle country; and I also visited at the house of a backwoods lumberjack friend. In both places we lived under old-style American conditions. We all of us worked, and our social distinctions were essentially based on individual worth. We accepted as a matter of course that the difference in degree of service rendered ought at least roughly to correspond to the difference in reward. Each did most of the purely personal things for himself. But nobody thought of any necessary work as degrading.
I remember that once, when there was a lull in outdoor work, I endeavored to be useful in and around the house. I fed the pigs; and on an idle morning I blacked all the boots. Ordinarily our boots did not need blacking - most of them were not that kind. On this occasion I started, with an enthusiasm that outran my judgment, to black the dress boots of every one, of both sexes. I coated them with a thick, dull paste; only a few knobs became shiny; and the paste came off freely on what it touched. As a result I temporarily lost not merely the respect but even the affection of all the other,