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ADDRESS BEFORE THE YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN
ASSOCIATION, CARNEGIE HALL, NEW YORK,
DECEMBER 30, 1900
IT is a peculiar pleasure to me to come before you to-night to greet you and to bear testimony to the great good that has been done by these Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations throughout the United States. More and more we are getting to recognize the law of combination. This is true of many phases in our industrial life, and it is equally true of the world of philanthropic effort. Nowhere is it, or will it ever be, possible to supplant individual effort, individual initiative; but in addition to this there must be work in combination. More and more this is recognized as true not only in charitable work proper, but in that best form of philanthropic endeavor where we all do good to ourselves by all joining together to do good to one another. This is exactly what is done in your associations.
It seems to me that there are several reasons why you are entitled to especial recognition from all who are interested in the betterment of our American social system. First and foremost, your organization recognizes the vital need of brotherhood, the most vital of all our needs here in this great Republic. The existence of a Young Men's or Young Women's Christian Association is certain proof that some people at least recognize in practical shape the identity of aspiration and interest, both in things material and in things higher, which with us must be widespread through the masses of our people if our national life is to attain full development. This spirit of brotherhood recognizes of necessity both the need of self-help and also the need of helping others in the only way which ever ultimately does great good, that is, of helping them to help themselves. Every man of us needs such help at some time or other, and each of us should be glad to stretch out his hand to a brother who stumbles. But while every man needs at times to be lifted up when he stumbles, no man can afford to let himself be carried, and it is worth no man's while to try thus to carry some one else. The man who lies down, who will not try to walk, has become a mere cumberer of the earth's surface.
These Associations of yours try to make men self-helpful and to help them when they are self-helpful. They do not try merely to carry them, to benefit them for the moment at the cost of their future undoing. This means that all in any way connected with them not merely retain but increase their self-respect. Any man who takes part in the work of such an organization is benefited to some extent and benefits the community to some extent—of course, always with the proviso that the organization is well managed and is run on a business basis, as well as with a philanthropic purpose.
The feeling of brotherhood is necessarily as remote from a patronizing spirit, on the one hand, as from a spirit of envy and malice, on the other. The best work for our uplifting must be done by ourselves, and yet with brotherly kindness for our neighbor. In such work, and therefore in the kind of work done by the Young Men's Christian Associations, we all stand on the self-respecting basis of mutual benefit and common effort. All of us who take part in any such work, in whatever measure, both receive and confer benefits. This is true of the founder and giver, and it is no less true of every man who takes advantage of what the founder and giver have done. These bodies make us all realize how much we have in common, and how much we can do when we work in common. I doubt if it is possible to overestimate the good done by the mere fact of association with a common interest and for a common end, and when the common interest is high and the common end peculiarly worthy, the good done is of course many times increased.
Besides developing this sense of brotherhood, the feeling which breeds respect both for one's self and for others, your Associations have a peculiar value in showing what can be done by acting in combination without aid from the State. While on the one hand it has become evident that under the conditions of modern life we cannot allow an unlimited individualism which may work harm to the community, it is no less evident that the sphere of the State's action should be extended very cautiously, and so far as possible only where it will not crush out healthy individual initiative. Voluntary action by individuals in the form of associations of any kind for mutual betterment or mutual advantage often offers a way to avoid alike the dangers of State control and the dangers of excessive individualism. This is particularly true of efforts for that most important of all forms of betterment, moral betterment—the moral betterment which usually brings material betterment in its train.
It is only in this way, by all of us working together in a spirit of brotherhood, by each doing his part for the betterment of himself and of others, that it is possible for us to solve the tremendous problems with which as a nation we are now confronted. Our industrial life has become so complex, its rate of movement so very rapid, and the specialization and differentiation so intense that we find ourselves face
to face with conditions that were practically unknown in this nation half a century ago. The power of the forces of evil has been greatly increased, and it is necessary for our self-preservation that we should similarly strengthen the forces for good. We are all of us bound to work toward this end. No one of us can do everything, but each of us can do something, and if we work together the aggregate of these somethings will be very considerable.
There are, of course, a thousand different ways in which the work can be done, and each man must choose as his tastes and his powers bid him, if he is to do the best of which he is capable. But all the kinds of work must be carried along on certain definite lines if good is to come. All the work must be attempted as on the whole this Young Men's Christian Association work has been done, that is, in a spirit of good will toward all and not of hatred toward some; in a spirit in which to broad charity for mankind there is added a keen and healthy sanity of mind. We must retain our self-respect, each and all of us, and we must beware alike of mushy sentimentality and of envy and hatred.
It ought not to be necessary for me to warn you against mere sentimentality, against the philanthropy and charity which are not merely insufficient but harmful. It is eminently desirable that we should none of us be hard-hearted, but it is no less desirable