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SOME WAR-TIME LESSONS





COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS
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SOME WAR-TIME LESSONS


THE SOLDIER'S STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

THE WAR AS A PRACTICAL TEST OF
AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?


BY

FREDERICK PAUL KEPPEL

THIRD ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF WAR


Publisher's Mark

New York
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS
1920
All rights reserved





Copyright, 1920
By Columbia University Press
Printed from type, January, 1920




PRINTED AT
THE·PLIMPTON·PRESS
NORWOOD·MASS·U·S·A






TO

NEWTON D. BAKER







CONTENTS

    PAGE
I. The American Soldier and His Standards of Conduct 9
II. The War as a Practical Test of American Scholarship 36
III. What Have We learned? 66




[Pg 9]

SOME WAR-TIME LESSONS

THE AMERICAN SOLDIER AND HIS
STANDARDS OF CONDUCT[1]

Perhaps the greatest laboratory experiment in human conduct in the history of the world has been the development of our Army during the past two years. Under the provisions of the Selective Service Law, this Army has represented a cross section of American male humanity—even more representative indeed than was intended; for in the efforts of the Local Boards to send men who could best be spared, many found their way into the ranks who were handicapped from the start by low mentality or disease. What were the guiding forces which operated upon this body of nearly four million men?

In the first place, our country entered the war with a great moral purpose, untinged by [Pg 10]any trace of national or individual selfishness. We really have to go back to the Crusades to find the like. And, as then, each man supplemented this great basal impulse with whatever was to him the strongest incentive—religion, patriotism, pride of family or state or regiment, the desire to excel in what all were attempting.

In the second place, thanks primarily to the vision and determination of one man, the individual appeal to each soldier as to his personal share in the great enterprise was upon the highest plane. We were fortunate in having at the head of the War Department a man peculiarly sensitive to community problems and with no small experience in their solution. Through the centuries men had come to the belief that if their soldiers were only valiant and disciplined in arms, it would not do to inquire too curiously into their personal standards of conduct in other matters—that a considerable wastage in military strength from drunkenness and disease was inevitable. And as we all know, this wastage has in the past sapped, not only the strength of the Army, but afterwards the very life of the nation to which the soldier must sooner or later return.

[Pg 11]The Secretary of War and his lieutenants, chief among whom in this field should be placed the Chairman of the Committee on Training Camp Activities, Raymond B. Fosdick, approached this problem neither in the fatalistic spirit that what has always been must continue to be, nor in a spirit of what, for want of a better term, I may call doctrinaire idealism. They faced the fact that among the hundreds of thousands of young men who were to be called to the colors, there would be many whose ears would be deaf to any abstract appeal, and many others to whom such an appeal might be made under normal conditions, but who in fatigue or the let-down following the strain of conflict, could not be depended upon to stand in the hour of temptation. As a result the whole field of preventive measures was thoroughly studied and vigorous treatment was applied. The Army regulations as to prophylaxis and the introduction of intoxicants into camps were strictly and honestly enforced. The Army saw to it that state and local laws as to liquor and prostitution were properly carried out, and if these were lacking, they were promptly enacted. The so-called Zone Law was adopted for the purpose of placing [Pg 12]the immediate vicinity of camps under Federal control. In some cases where the community showed signs of regarding the Army policy in this regard as a beau geste and nothing more, it was made to realize that while the War Department could not compel the community to mend its ways, it could and would move the camp in twenty-four hours to a more wholesome environment. I am proud to say that it was necessary in only a very few instances to bring forward this aspect of the situation, but when it was necessary the Department spoke in no uncertain tone.

As a result of this general policy, in which the Navy shared, many a wide-open town received a thorough house cleaning for the first time in its career; in all between 120 and 140 red light districts were closed and kept closed; and the underlying sordidness of many a smug self-satisfied village was brought to light and remedied.

The men who came to the camps tainted with venereal disease or broken by drink or morphine—and the number of these was great enough to shock our national complacency (and incidentally to explode the national assumption that the country is primarily the abode of [Pg 13]virtue as the city is of vice)—these men were salvaged by the tens of thousands and turned into useful self-respecting soldiers and citizens.

The lesson of clean living was taught by the spoken word, by the moving picture, by the printed page, by the doctor with a scientific thoroughness and by the layman with a frankness and sometimes a colloquialism which would for once have rendered Mrs. Grundy speechless. As an instrument of virtue, the tract is, of course, of time-honored usage, but the name of George Ade in the list of tract writers is a new and significant one.

More important than all this, however, in my judgment, was the realization by the Army of the great truth that the soldier—or any one else for that matter—goes astray in only the rarest instances from innate depravity. What he seeks primarily is relaxation and amusement. And so wholesome relaxation and amusement were placed at his disposal to take the place of the unwholesome. The whole nation rose to help in this work of substituting the clean for the unclean. It poured its money by the hundreds of millions into the coffers of the great welfare societies, the Red Cross, The Young Men's Christian Association, Knights of [Pg 14]Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, and later in recognition of its work abroad, the Salvation Army. All of these vied with one another in a rivalry which was sometimes embarrassing in its intensity. The American Library Association supplied books and other reading matter, and the War Camp Community Service made sure that, to the towns and villages surrounding it, a cantonment presented an opportunity for service rather than for exploitation. Not the least important factor in the superb showing which our troops made in France was the spirit with which the men and women of these same towns inspired the men from the training camps whom they took into their homes and their hearts.

Within the fabric of the Army the chaplains were doing their share, as were the athletic leaders and song leaders and dramatic coaches. They were seconded by the officers of the line, most of whom, it should be said, saw the military usefulness of the whole program from the first, many of the experienced regulars having always done what they could with the limited means at their command along the same lines. Other officers, however, had to be shown—and were shown—the military importance of [Pg 15]the truth that the merry heart goes all the day, and the sad one tires in a mile.

The work of planning and coördination was in the hands of the civilian Commission on Training Camp Activities, of which Mr. Fosdick has been from the first the Chairman. The work of this Commission has been characterized from the outset by a courage and resourcefulness for which no praise can be too high. The theatre for example has not always been looked upon by the American people as a moral agency, but the Commission saw its place in the scheme of things and no fewer than thirty-seven great playhouses have been erected at the camps and the audiences have run literally into the millions. Boxing likewise was encouraged, even though some of the contests which resulted were not of the most gentle. Cantonment towns were persuaded to open the "Movies" on Sunday, the only day on which most soldiers could leave the Camp—the outcries of the unco guid to the contrary notwithstanding.

For more than a year the Commission and the welfare organizations were the only organized forces in this general field, but since last summer their work has been supplemented by the establishment within the Army itself [Pg 16]of a Morale Branch of the General Staff, in the formation of which the Department was not too proud to take a leaf—perhaps one should say a Blatt—from the Germans, who had already developed this type of organization to a high degree, under the direct supervision of General Ludendorff.


I have spoken of the work of prevention, of the more important work of substitution, and I now come to the most important of all—the spirit of confidence which extended from top to bottom of the huge organization that the great mass of our men would go straight for the sake of going straight. We all instinctively couple the two words, "officer" and "gentleman." In the great Army which is now being disbanded, its work having been so gloriously done, we find a new and enlarged conception, that of the soldier and gentleman. It was, I am certain, the preliminary assumption that an American soldier was also an American gentleman in all the fundamentals of that much-abused term, which was the great factor in keeping down the number of those who proved the contrary to so negligibly small a total.

A few figures from the official records will [Pg 17]show what the result of this all has been. In 1909, for instance, there were in the Army, in round numbers, 5500 court-martial convictions of enlisted men, out of a total of 75,000. For the fifteen months ending July 1, 1918, there were 11,500 convictions out of a total of 2,200,000 enlisted men, the percentage in the twelve months of peace being 7.3 and in the fifteen months of war, .53, about one-fourteenth as great. The significance of these later figures cannot be appreciated without some knowledge of the underlying circumstances. One case I remember was that of a man who got drunk, spent his money and that of some fellow soldiers, and stayed absent without leave to earn money enough to repay his fellow soldiers and then returned to camp to take his medicine. What on the surface appears to be the cowardly crime of desertion was, in several instances of which I have personal knowledge, a misguided effort to get to the front, through enlistment under another name in some branch of the service which seemed to have an earlier prospect of getting over. In France there were many cases of desertion, but nearly all were from the rear to the front. The progressive success of the policy of keeping the soldier from strong [Pg 18]drink, by the way, stands out in the figures, which show that early in the war one out of every twelve offenses charged included drunkenness, but that this proportion dropped until the final figures were less than one in each thirty offenses, this including soldiers in France, where the soldier had to stand on his own feet unprotected by prohibition laws.

The welfare program was, from the nature of the case, most effective among the men of the National Army, where it was possible to take the soldiers in hand from the first. If we analyze the court-martial records, we find that the proportion of court-martials was distinctly lowest in this group. The records as of June 30, 1918, show that the number of court-martials among the Regular Army was a little less than one per cent, to be accurate 8/10 of one per cent; in the National Guard the proportion was about 9/10 of one per cent; and in the National Army it was less than 2/10 of one per cent, the exact figure being .143 per cent, one-fiftieth of the percentage ten years ago.

Another check on the efficiency of the program is found in the records as to venereal disease in the Surgeon General's Office. It is hard to get comparative figures because of [Pg 19]constantly changing conditions, but it has been shown beyond all doubt that the health conditions in the Army have been far, far better than in the community at large. While the latter are not so bad as the alarmists have implied, they are serious enough in all conscience, when in no fewer than seventeen of the states, sixty or more of every thousand men who appeared at the mobilization camps were found to be infected. Taking a typical month before the signing of the armistice, we find that the proportion of cases coming to the camps from the civil community was fifteen times as great as the proportion among our soldiers in France, even including the soldiers in the port towns, where most of our difficulties there were found. The comparison with the records of the cantonments in this country is even more striking.


As to the purely religious appeal and its influence on the men it is hard to speak with any degree of certainty. A visiting British general in Washington, shortly after our entry into the war, was asked as to conditions in England, and is reported to have replied, "Upon my soul, if you ask me, I should say that with [Pg 20]us the dear old Church has rather missed the bus." In this country the organized religious forces have by no means missed the bus, but if we are honest with ourselves we must face the fact that since the last great national test, the Civil War, other appeals to higher standards of conduct have both actually and relatively been tremendously strengthened, and our religious leaders must address themselves, in the light of experience during these past two years, to a clearer understanding of these other forces and to a closer coöperation with them. We cannot to-day close our eyes to the truth that many of our finest men played their splendid parts quite untouched by a religious motive or appeal—or at least doctrinal appeal; one hesitates to call their attitude a non-religious one. It must always be remembered, however, that their standards, no matter how unconscious they may have been of the fact, were fundamentally based upon the development of a Christian civilization.

If thus far I may have seemed to measure soldier conduct by two standards only, by his relation to drink and to women, it is because the results of the policy of the Army in these two matters are measurable, the records are [Pg 21]outstanding. The Army and its experience however would furnish but a poor guide to the Churches and the other civilian forces for righteousness if its lessons were limited to the negative virtues, important as they are, of sobriety and continence.

The real contribution, what we have learned as to the positive virtues, is harder to describe and impossible to measure, but the lessons are worth looking for and may be learned from the letters and from the lips of our men. Perhaps I can best indicate what the men themselves regard as vital by telling the experience of a friend who started one of the customary practical talks before an audience of our men behind the lines in France. His homily didn't seem to be "getting across" and he was inspired to ascertain just what to their minds were the most serious offenses. He asked each man to write down what he regarded as the three very worst faults against which a soldier should be on his guard. When the answers were collected, one word appeared on practically every slip of paper, cowardice; the second was not so nearly unanimous, but appears on a strong majority of the papers, selfishness; and the third was evidently conceitedness, though the [Pg 22]defect was worded in different ways, as big head, crust, and the like.

In other words, the virtues which the soldier most admires and regarding which he had evidently learned the most valuable lessons, are courage, unselfishness or coöperativeness, and modesty.

The record of our soldiers has proved beyond a doubt that once you get men into groups with a common and a worth-while purpose, courage—both the reckless courage that comes by instinct and that higher type, the courage of the man who recognizes his danger—can no longer be assumed to be a rare virtue. It is a very common virtue. Cowardice is infinitely rarer. The citations and the casualty records, for instance, have completely rehabilitated the Jew as a fighting man, and the faithful need no longer go back to Josephus for their war legends.

Not all the courage and fortitude was shown on the field of battle. We must not forget that last fall we suffered from by far the most serious epidemic in the history of America, and, in the dark days in our training camps, opportunities were offered, and gladly accepted, for a display of heroism and devotion of the highest type.

[Pg 23]In the realm of fortitude, if not of physical courage, the war certainly tapped new sources of determination and provided a kind of stimulus which would keep a man to whom no personal glory or conspicuousness could possibly come, some poor devil sentenced to a swivel chair, laboring in that same chair day and night for the purpose of making some single improvement in nut or bolt, or perhaps filing card. Given the impetus of a great common purpose, our possibilities for industry are limitless.

One thing that mankind should have learned long since is that, broadly speaking, selfishness as a guiding motive is essentially negative—the absence of something better—the man is a rare exception who does not lose himself and his self-interest in the conception or the ambition of the group, the squad or battalion or regiment, the division, the army or the nation. An interesting side-light upon this is the fact that two-thirds of the men who get into trouble in the Army, or at any rate who get into sufficiently serious trouble to land them in Fort Leavenworth, are markedly of the ego-centric type; in other words, are men for whom the group cannot overcome the individual bias.

[Pg 24]That our soldiers as a whole possess the virtue of modesty, though it is often overlaid by a veneer of innocent swagger, is beyond dispute, as any one who has had to do with them can testify. And underlying and inspiring their whole conduct have been the qualities of whole-souledness and determination and an indomitable cheerfulness.


We must learn the lessons which the soldiers have to teach us in the large just as we must grasp their accomplishments in the large. There is a morning after for nations as well as for individuals, and we seem just now to be in danger of losing our conception of the greatness of the enterprise, and its essential soundness, through the intrusion of the instances, relatively very few, where things did not go right; where human nature did not reach the heights, or having reached them, failed to remain upon them.

It has, I think, been definitely proved that the mixing up of the so-called welfare work with the special function of the clergymen or other religious adviser, in order that the latter may be made more palatable to the soldier, has an effect exactly the reverse of what was intended. [Pg 25]The policy of interpolating a prayer meeting, or a heart-to-heart talk, between the third and fourth reels of the moving picture play, and I grieve to say that such a policy was actually followed for a while, is of course a fantastic example, but it shows exactly how we ought not to do it.

The soldiers are peculiarly sensitive to any feeling that what is done for them is done for some other purpose than the ostensible one, entirely apart from how worthy such other purpose may be. Let me quote from a letter written by an officer of the Army who had been visiting a number of camps:

"The Camp Library to my mind fulfills one of the most vital needs of the camp. It is a place where our men can get relaxation and mental stimulus, and where they can feel at ease without the 'God-bless-you' atmosphere of the other welfare organizations."... "It is the one place in camp where you can go and have a chance to meditate or read in peace and quiet without a piano jangling in your ears or the imminent possibility of a prayer meeting."

The chaplain or the lay religious worker to whom a man instinctively turned at the moment when he needed spiritual help was the one [Pg 26]whom he had learned to respect for courage and devotion and dignity, the man who had helped to bury his dead friend, to comfort and amuse his wounded friend, and to advise his misguided friend in the guard-house; not the one whose ill-timed ministrations he had learned to avoid. I understand that the story of the chaplain who entirely forgot that he was to appear at a review for the purpose of receiving a medal and delayed the entire proceedings while he was sought for and found in his customary post in the connecting trench, is absolutely authentic.

The man who could forget his denomination in his devotion to the great common mission was the man whom the soldier learned to love and to trust and who could do the most in the day of battle. The most popular tales among the chaplains are the tales of unorthodoxy: The Catholic priest who baptized a group of his men before action in a shell hole with water which was not only unblessed, but I fear unsanitary, and who simply referred to Philip and the Eunuch when reproved; the Methodist and Baptist, and I think the Episcopalian, who in the absence of their Presbyterian colleague, solemnly and quite illegally received a youngster [Pg 27]into the Presbyterian fold before he went overseas, and confessed the next morning to the Presbyterian Board; the Wesleyan chaplain in the British Army who carried a crucifix to comfort the dying Catholics on the battlefield when no priest of their faith was near, and who administered the last rites to them as best he could. There are hundreds of such stories.

The appeal of any denomination as such, or of the Y, or the corresponding societies of other faiths, as such, was always mistaken. It was the united appeal of all the doers of good deeds which counted. If we never knew before, we know now the truth of the fable of the bundle of fagots. Personally, I believe the united drive for welfare work last fall, during which Protestant, Catholic and Jew, and men of no formal religion whatever, appealed from the same platform for the same great purpose, was an event of the greatest importance in our nation, and it will go ill with us if we forget the lesson that it has to teach.

The appeal must be not only disinterested, but it must be simple and direct. This, and the careful selection of its personnel, had much, if not most, to do with the extraordinary success of the Salvation Army. There are times [Pg 28]in a soldier's life when the sewing on of a button at some vital spot will do more to "get" him than anything else in the world.

Out of this spirit of general helpfulness, there were developed at almost every point the most beautiful and sympathetic adjustments to immediate conditions. For example, take the plan of showing moving pictures upon the ceilings of hospital wards, so that the very ill may enjoy them without the strain even of raising their heads. This small piece of thoughtfulness to me represents the standard of thinking a problem through which we will have to maintain if we are to hold what we have gained, and what we have gained includes, or should include, a realization that active and willing loving-kindness furnishes the keenest of all pleasures.


Thus far I have spoken mainly of the work of preparation in the United States. Overseas our soldiers and their officers found new conditions and were forced to make new adjustments. We no longer could control the laws and ordinances, and we found different standards of conduct—not necessarily lower standards, but different standards. We could no longer [Pg 29]enforce prohibition for example, but we did maintain a high average of temperance. We showed our allies, some of whom I may say were honestly sceptical on the subject, that with our soldiers continence was the rule, and not the exception. When I was in France last year, I asked those who were in a position to know upon this point and was told that, comparatively speaking, very, very few of our men lowered in France the standards of conduct which they held when they came into the Army, that many more greatly improved those standards, either because of the lessons they had learned in our training camps, or because of the wholesome companionship of the women workers with whom they were daily brought in contact, or because, and this was probably the most potent factor of all, they were so desperately keen to get into the fighting line that they were taking no chances of being put out of commission beforehand. Their morality was the morality of the team in training for the big game, and it kept tens of thousands of boys straight. Indeed, until November 11, disciplinary problems may be said to have been practically non-existent among combat troops and almost negligible among the others. After the armistice was [Pg 30]signed, there was a let-down, this being after all a very human body of young men, and the first remedy tried by some of the old-time regulars did not help a bit. This was to "give 'em plenty of drill and make 'em so tired they won't have energy to get into mischief," but as one returning artillery officer pointed out to me, when a battery a month before has fired 50,000 rounds of high-explosive at the Boche, and worked its guns over craters and through thickets, a drill with dummy ammunition on a parade ground is almost a justification for mutiny. Wiser counsel soon prevailed and the welfare work, which had slumped with the rest, was again brought up to concert pitch. It was for the first time in France, properly coördinated under Army control. The misfits and the workers who had worn themselves out were returned to this country and their places taken by fresh blood. I remember in this connection a paragraph tucked in the middle of the uncompromising officialdom of the daily departmental cable: "Send over plenty of welfare workers and remember the best men you can send are the women."

Let me take this chance to say a word about the criticisms we have been hearing of this [Pg 31]welfare work abroad. In the first place, the success of the work in this country among the men in training set up an expectation which it was humanly impossible to meet under the conditions overseas; in other words, the men who went over assumed standards as to the minimum amount of attention which it was their right to expect, the like of which had never been dreamed in the history of mankind. As a matter of fact, and taken as a whole, the treatment which they received was admirable and the comparatively few who now doubt the truth of this statement will come to realize it as time goes on. They will see that the misfits, the over-wrought, stood out in their minds like men out of alignment at parade, that they simply did not notice the thousands of men and women whose work for them was all that their own mothers could have asked.

The following official cablegram records the state of educational, recreation and welfare work at the end of April, 1919.

"Educational activities: Roughly there are 209,000 students embraced in this scheme. Ten thousand are at A.E.F. University at Beaune, some 7,000 are attending French universities. 3,000 attending British. There are roughly [Pg 32]130,000 men at Post Schools, which correspond to our elementary schools in United States. 55,000 are attending the Divisional Educational Schools, which correspond to our High schools. In addition there are approximately 58,000 men in specialized vocational schools where they have full shop facilities of A.E.F.

"Athletic activities: Athletic activities increasing daily in scope and popularity. Figures for February show 6,500,000 individual participants in games. In addition to mass athletics, unit championships are being played in football, basketball, soccer, boxing, tennis, swimming, tug of war, golf, track and field.

"Entertainment activities: Reports of entertainment officers show monthly attendance for A.E.F. of between eight and ten million. Moving pictures, professional talent from United States and particularly soldier shows being utilized in all parts of army and have done much to take care of leisure hours of troops. Horse shows have been held in nearly every division of A.E.F. and have proved very popular. Amount of all this work now being carried on is little short of stupendous."

The following paragraphs from a personal letter are particularly significant as coming from [Pg 33]an officer of the regular army, who when he was in command of one of the cantonments in the United States was genuinely alarmed lest the War Department had not lost its sense of proportion, and was creating parlor ornaments instead of fighting men:

"I served in the Army of Occupation in the Philippines and in China after the Boxer campaign, and I want to tell you that the discipline and ésprit de corps of these troops in Germany is incomparably better than anything I saw there.

"I think nothing has so contributed to this result as the welfare work and the educational work undertaken. We have every reason to be proud of the fact that we had people in command of the army who had the vision to see what result this work would bring.

"I took command of the —th Division in the Army of Occupation in December, and up until the present time I never worked with a happier or more contented lot of men. Of course they all want to go home, and we wouldn't have much use for them if they didn't, but an intensified military course of training in the morning, schools and athletics in the afternoon, and study and entertainment in the evening [Pg 34]have made their days so full that they have been perfectly contented to stay until their boat comes in June.

"This has been the experience of all the divisions up here in Germany, and their enthusiasm, I fear, when they get home, may be taken for pro-Germanism."


The War Department has learned so much in this great laboratory experiment in human conduct that the impious wish sometimes arises in one's mind that we might promptly try it all over again for the chance of profiting by our mistakes. Thank God we can't do that, but in our daily contact with these same men restored to their communities we can to a certain degree carry on the work, and in so doing we can learn much from the successes and failures of the Army.

In planning for the immediate future, there are some things which we mustn't forget. In the first place, we mustn't expect these young men (or any humans for that matter) to be capable of remaining at concert pitch indefinitely.

For a while, in dealing with the soldier who has returned from overseas, real ingenuity will be required to make much impression upon his [Pg 35]mind. Not only will ordinary life seem tame but, frankly, he is likely to have been overhandled and overwelfared. If, however, we have erred in this regard, it has been on the right side.

May I venture still another suggestion, and that is to be careful and considerate of the soldier who, despite his earnest desire, failed to get across, and for the matter of that, of the young man who didn't get into the Army at all. The morale of these two groups will need our particular care.

In closing, however, we should not end upon a note of warning, but rather upon one of exultation; for the war has taught us, if it has taught nothing else, that, given a great cause and a cross-section of our heterogeneous American population, the resulting revelation of the power of human endurance, human courage and human accomplishment comes pretty near to proving objectively the divinity of man.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] An address delivered at the one hundredth anniversary of the General Theological Seminary, New York, April 30, 1919.





[Pg 36]

THE WAR AS A PRACTICAL TEST OF AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP[2]

It is a difficult task to attempt to define the American scholar of to-day. If any of you doubt it, let him try it as I have tried. Scholarship, like many another broad term, has no sharply marked edges. It is hard to define anything that lacks definiteness; and, after all, the task is relatively profitless, because we all of us recognize what is at the center of the concept. I think we all recognize that the scholar is an expert in some particular field or fields; but he is more than the expert as such, in that he knows enough of other matters to see his particular specialty in its relation to things in general. He must, to this degree at least, be a philosopher. This very general conception of scholarship is fairly constant, but the fields which the conception includes are broadening day by day and almost hour by hour. [Pg 37]We cannot to-day limit scholarship to the polite branches which were all that it embodied when this Society was founded or even when this Chapter was established. The scholar of the old-fashioned type must now accept as his fellow the man who has helped to flatten the trajectory of the 16-inch shell, or to control the birth rate of the cootie. Later on I shall suggest one other element which, in the light of the test which American scholarship has undergone in the past two years, it seems to me should now be included in our idea of the typical American scholar.

We Americans are proud of being called a nation of inventors; and most of us have made, or almost made, private discoveries of an inventional nature which, for some reason, have never come to fruition. The scientific boards in Washington during the war received more than sixty thousand suggestions in some mechanical field; and I am told by those who ought to know that of all these not more than five of those coming from untrained minds were of any practical value. Even from the trained minds there came, I am told, no fundamental discovery in science as a direct result of the war conditions. Suggestions of improvements in [Pg 38]detail and valuable suggestions there were in plenty, new applications of known principles, but application of a fundamentally new idea, no. That is only to say what we already know, that discovery is not made to order. In each case the idea had already been born in the mind of some intellectual pioneer and worked out by him, and some man who had the idea in the front of his mind was at hand to apply it to the new condition. And that means, I think, that if we met the test, we met it with our scholars.

When the test came, certain fields of scholarship naturally afforded a better chance for immediate service than others. The chemist, for example, had a better chance a thousand-fold than the archæologist. It is extraordinary, however, how many of the gifts which burned bright on the national altar came from men with some out-of-the-way specialty. Take archæology itself, if you will. The best trench helmet developed during the war was designed by the expert in armor from our own academic fellowship. I am told that a very important element in the length of time which it took to control the submarine menace was the fact that when war broke out the science of oceanography was [Pg 39]almost wholly in the hands of the Germans. When the world's supply of cocoanut husks was taken up for gas masks and we still needed charcoal, we had to turn for additional sources to the tropical botanist, who might have been expected to remain reasonably undisturbed. It remained for a scholar in perhaps the purest branch of pure science, astronomy, to recognize the well known fact that it is the shape of the tail of any and every moving object, motor car or boat or what you will, and not the shape of the head, which is the factor of chief importance in design, and to apply this recognition to artillery problems. The re-designing of our artillery shells under the direction of this astronomer added miles to their range. Another astronomer applied his experience in studying the movement of comets to solving certain problems of long-range artillery fire where the projectile in its flight rises into the circumambient ether.

In proving the case for the American scholar, as I think we can prove it, we should not be beguiled into the pleasant task of recording the deeds of scholars and gentlemen when the deeds were those of the gallant gentleman rather than of the scholar per se. We have [Pg 40]one here in our own academic family whose lieutenant's bars I should be as proud to wear as the stars of any of our generals. Nor need we, I think, cite the instances where the rigorous training of the scholar clearly laid the foundation for great accomplishment in some general field of administration. The man whom we can thank perhaps more than any other for the brilliant conduct of our war finance was seventeen years ago editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review. We may well turn with pride, but we don't need him to prove our point, to the scholar of this university, formerly president of this Chapter, who, from his own talents and experience and his alert sense of scholarship in others, has earned the place which he now holds as educational director of the largest university in the world, the A.E.F. University at Beaune.


Our case rests, as I say, upon the direct applications of scholarship, and not only upon their quality, but on their range. A single division of the National Research Council, in its report for 1918, showed work of national significance by the scholars in physics, mathematics, and allied fields toward the solution [Pg 41]of no fewer than sixty-eight different problems, every one of which needed for its solution men with training and knowledge and vision. At the outset, who among us had the slightest conception of the complexity of the adaptations to warfare of what was known to modern scholarship? We knew that the war was mounting into the air, but who had any realization of the adjustments which this involved? Fifteen fundamental problems based on pure physics promptly arose with reference to instruments for airplane operation. For example, at night and in the clouds, the aviator must have before his eyes a dial which will indicate the slightest deviation from his course. Seven problems had to do with airplane photography. As the art of camouflage advanced, for instance, color filters had to be devised for its detection from above. Seven additional problems had to do with factors of construction and maintenance, as fuel efficiency. Nine others affected ballooning; and the balloon, as the war developed, came to be of greater and greater importance. Eleven studies were in signalling: one, for example, a device for secret daylight signalling, with a range of five miles or more. And please remember that all these were the task of one branch of one [Pg 42]organization within the field of pure science. By common consent, the dullest branch of physics was held to be acoustics, but since 1914 the whole question of sound-ranging has been in the hands of experts in acoustics. A device developed by American physicists gave our men nineteen seconds in which to take cover from cannon fired four miles away. The most brilliant work in this field was that of a former student of the Columbia School of Mines.

If I were to pick out one field in which the scholarly attitude has been most brilliantly rewarded, it is that of medicine. If our army surgeons and sanitarians had been confined to the practical family doctors, who cannot be bothered with all this new-fangled stuff, our men would have died like flies from disease, as they did in the Spanish-American War. It was the laboratory man, the theorist, the highbrow if you like, who made our health record a matter of national pride and congratulation. It was the knowledge of a scholar, coupled with his instinctive understanding of the human heart—neither could have accomplished the purpose alone—which sent hundreds of shell-shocks, as they came to be called (people used to call the condition by an uglier, if not a shorter, [Pg 43]term) back into the lines with self-respect and nerve renewed.

To turn to another field, it was a real scholar, even if he were also a dean, who, in spite of the best efforts of his practical associates to deter him, brought order out of chaos in the most important of our war boards through the collection and skillful presentation of statistical data.

In many cases it was the scholar whom we must thank for the pointing out of the obvious. The early drafts rejected thousands of excellent potential soldiers because our existing height regulations were drawn for men of the northern European races; and the minimum height limit was well within the normal variation of the men of southern European ancestry, which has been so large an element in our recent immigration. Similarly, men of science have pointed out that the length of the marching step depends not alone on the length of the legs, but even more on the width of the hips, a simple fact which is of real military significance. The scholars in the Forest Products laboratories knew how to make boxes that would not break and spill their contents on the wharves at Hoboken or St. Nazaire, and, equally [Pg 44]important, they knew how to educate the quartermasters to use them.

The fact that in many fields we reached the limits of available man-power meant a wonderful stimulation to the study of certain problems affecting human welfare. Take for example the physiological aspects of industrial fatigue. In this field an excellent theoretical start had been made before the war, but the appeal was limited to those interested in the individual worker. With the war, however, and the shortage of labor, came a new and, I fear, a more potent appeal—the interest in the product and its prompt production. The worker who collapsed could not be replaced. Long hours or unsanitary surroundings meant spoiled material and broken-down machinery and resultant delay. And when there was a scholar at hand to show why this was so, you may be sure he had his day in court.

The work of the scholar has not wholly been in getting things done. Perhaps an equally important side was in keeping impossible or unprofitable things from being attempted. When time was of the very essence of the whole program, the man who could say "No" and prove the validity of his objection, performed a [Pg 45]positive work of great value. One of our associates at Columbia had a leading share in devising tests for candidates for the flying school, which, by rejecting the unfit at the outset, saved many lives from the time of their adoption and many, many thousands of dollars; for the training of a flyer who cannot be used when the time comes is a very costly piece of national extravagance in both money and men.

Our scholars did not confine their activities to the battle of Washington. Not only as engineers and doctors, but as geologists and geographers, as meteorologists and sanitarians, they went with the troops to the front, and their counsel as to actual military operations was welcomed and followed. One of them, a bachelor and doctor of this University, died in the service in France. The scholar, like the soldier, stood ready to step forward to fill the gap in the ranks as he saw it, regardless of whether something more dignified might be found for him to do. Our own Barnard, Professor of Education, took what he was pleased to call his vacation in applying his scholarship to organizing an educational program for the wounded men in our hospitals, as a therapeutic measure. Being a scholar and not merely an [Pg 46]expert, he saw the broad human aspect of his specialty; that the first thing to do with the man who is blinded, or otherwise maimed, is to make him realize that it is worth while to get well; that he can have a life which is worth living; that if his old job is no longer possible, there are others for which he can be trained. One of America's most distinguished philosophical chemists settled down to the humble but very essential problem of making mixed flours rise and bake with a crust—and solved it. The war services of a past President of this Chapter, now, alas, no longer with us, and those of our present President have been as useful as they have been inconspicuous.

The need for the scholar was not only qualitative, but quantitative. But for the general distribution of chemical knowledge in France and England, and the presence of men capable of promptly applying that knowledge to combat the gas attacks launched by the Germans, the war would have been lost before we could possibly have rendered the slightest assistance; and on our side of the Atlantic when the armistice was signed, there were two thousand trained chemists engaged in the problems of gas warfare alone. Our country, in a word, needed not [Pg 47]only to have some men with the requisite training, but men enough to meet simultaneously many needs in many fields, and these men were drawn in large measure from our academic faculties. While one must not press the identity between the scholar and the professor too hard—for a number of reasons—the fact remains that the teaching profession provided the main reservoir from which the country drew. One of my friends in the Chemical Warfare Service has summarized the relation between the academic scholar and that branch of the army activity. Both chiefs of the Chemical Service Station were college professors, one of them a member of this Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Of the fourteen heads of the Research Division, eight were college professors. It was the college professors who made fundamental improvements in gas masks on the one hand, and who devised new gases to test the German masks on the other.


As a nation, we did not realize at the outset, as Germany did, the importance of the man who knows, and of knowing who he is and where he is; and here, perhaps, lay our most fundamental unpreparedness. What this cost us may be judged from a single instance. A code [Pg 48]message from Germany directing the dismantling of the German ships lying in our ports was intercepted. If we had known that there was a professor of English in the University of Chicago who, in the pursuit of his medieval researches, had developed the power of reading ciphers almost at sight, that cable from Germany could have been promptly deciphered, we could have forestalled the sabotage, and something like six months in the use of these ships for the transport of our troops and munitions could have been gained.

The job of getting the man who knew into the right niche was not an easy one. The scholars could not all be spared; for, after all, education and research are essential industries, and, fortunately for our institutions of learning, for our reviews and scientific agencies, and fortunately for the country as a whole, all of our scholars did not rush immediately into government work. The less thrilling task of keeping the lamps burning in our lighthouses was never more important than during the stormy days which we have just gone through. Furthermore, the scholar is a modest person, though he has his human vanities, as we all know who have seen our colleagues in uniform; [Pg 49]but usually some one had to know about him and invite him to his place, a very sharp contrast to the business men and lawyers who came down to Washington by the trainload to impress us with their capacity to do any job which involved a commission of properly high degree.

In general, I should say that the individuals in the universities met the test better than the institutions themselves. The latter did not, it seems to me, as institutions, grasp the situation. Very few studied the question of the assignment of their specialists as a problem in conservation as well as in publicity; and as far as the use of their facilities in the training of soldiers and sailors is concerned, the War Department and the Navy Department had literally to teach them how to meet the war conditions. Such help as came from organized bodies of scholars came rather from the learned societies than from the academic groups.

Then there was a further difficulty, particularly among the younger men, though not wholly among them. The expert's job, and hence inclusively the scholar's job, is relatively safe so far as the immediate risk of death is concerned, though not the risk of shortening life through overwork. One Columbia man, [Pg 50]well over the draft age, told me frankly that he would gladly give up an important public office he held for the privilege of fighting with his hands, but he could not be tempted by an opportunity to fight with his head. Through this same impulse many and many a man attempted to conceal his special knowledge in order that he might fight in the line. The Army Committee on Classification of Personnel, which was in itself a beautiful example of scholarship in practical application, was able, however, in most instances to pluck out the expert from the line and set him, whether he was willing or not, at the task for which he was particularly adapted and particularly needed.


What, from the point of view of the non-scholar, can be said as to the general usefulness of the men and women (for the women did their share) who came forward or were brought forward to take this trial by fire on behalf of American scholarship? First of all, the scholar must be a real scholar; he must have the natural ability and the long and rigorous training necessary for accurate observation, and observation of the kind which, if I may be forgiven a most unscholarly metaphor, includes [Pg 51]the ability to distinguish the blue chips from the white; his deductions must be relentless, and his inductions must be luminous. That is asking a good deal, and it would be enough if his dealings were to be with other scholars or with scholars in the making. The papers of a leisurely recluse can be dug out by others from the even more deliberately published proceedings of learned societies, even as the author has dug out those of his predecessors, and ultimately the practical application of his discoveries will be made. In national emergency, however, this process will not suffice. The scholar must descend from his tower; he must, if he is to serve effectively, learn to think to order and to do it rapidly, to deal with all sorts and conditions of men; he must bear with their amazing ignorances and profit by their equally amazing knowledge of things of which he is ignorant. He must know the art of team play. The war has brought out a new type of scholarship, or at any rate has developed it to such an extent that its implications are new, and that is the unselfish coöperation of experts to meet a given and usually an immediately pressing need. The development of the Liberty motor furnishes a good example [Pg 52]of the results of such coöperative effort. It seems to me that the most important single lesson which our scholars can learn from the experience of the two past years is the importance of this team play in scholarship, and not only team play with other scholars, but team play with those who have the equally valuable and perhaps even rarer gift of getting things done, who perhaps deserve the title of scholars in the control of time and space. The scholars who made good were those who had had not only the training and temperament for research, but the training and temperament for working with other people. The scholarship of the man who from self-centeredness or from a mistaken absorption in his specialty lacked the art of dealing with his fellow men was likely to prove a sterile scholarship, and in most cases a useless scholarship in the day of national need.

One of the most dramatic things about the war was the speeding up of supply and transport under the strong hand of the man who had brought the Panama Canal to completion. General Goethals was no administrative theorist. He was willing to try anything and anybody once, but he was prompt in rejecting what did not promptly accomplish his purpose. An [Pg 53]engineer of General Goethals' distinction can be regarded as a scholar in his particular field; but the point I want to make is that during his service as Quartermaster-General, when officers of the regular army and over-night majors, as they were called, presidents of manufacturing plants, bankers and lawyers, were passing in what seemed to be an almost unbroken procession through his office, he retained just two men in his inner circle from first to last, and both were academic persons. Herbert Hoover surrounded himself with scholars, entomologists, statisticians and public health men. He did not always use them for their specialties, but he evidently liked the type. The great welfare societies did the same, and the list of academic men whom they used makes an impressive total.

These instances are typical of a very general success among scholars in coöperating effectively and helpfully with eminently practical men. This may be because the scholar has been trained in a form of competition which the so-called practical man lacked. He is used to having his work wiped out by some discovery of a rival, and having to begin afresh. He is used to a checking of his work by his fellows [Pg 54]which, if of a different nature, is no less relentless than the war-time check in the toll of human lives. The man of high reputation in business often failed because he had learned to measure success and his own competence only in terms of dividends, and in the new test he found his measuring-rod worse than useless.

Our scholars of the coöperative type not only pursued their researches, but they got their military associates into the habit of thinking in terms of scholarship. One of their most useful accomplishments, initiated by a Doctor of Philosophy of this University, was the organization of Thursday evening conferences for the discussion of the new scientific and technical problems facing the Army and Navy. This furnished a nucleus for the exchange of ideas between the different research groups, both here and abroad; for scholarship was mobilized and utilized in France, England, and Italy, as well as here, and our Allies laid their scientific discoveries before us with the greatest loyalty. At these conferences their reports were discussed and digested and applied, instead of being pigeon-holed at the War College, as I fear might have been otherwise the case. It was as a result of one of these conferences that a [Pg 55]member of this Chapter, acting on a hint which came from a French report, was largely instrumental in developing a method of submarine detection through sound-waves of a particular type, which, though it came too late to be of service in the war, may serve in peace to relieve the greatest terror of the mariner, the danger of collision in darkness or fog with sister vessel or iceberg or derelict. A potent factor in breaking down the barriers and delays of departmental jealousies and bureaucratic tradition all along the line was the free-masonry of the company of scholars in Washington.

It must not be forgotten that our scholar in war worked under two powerful stimuli, neither of them operative under ordinary conditions. Although he was out of his accustomed setting, working with strange people and at strange tasks, nevertheless the realization of the national need and the joy of feeling an identification with the forces facing the adversary tended to produce that fine frenzy which enables a man to do better than he knows how. Then, for the first time in history, the scholar had unlimited funds. It is an interesting subject for speculation as to how he can ever go back to the limits of academic appropriations. It is to [Pg 56]be feared that in many cases he will not, but will turn to industrial enterprises instead. If, however, there was an unlimited supply of funds, there was a corresponding deficiency in time, and the scholar who could not speed up to meet the new conditions had little chance to make his mark. The men who failed in war because they could not grasp the significance of the time factor may, however, still be eminently useful in peace. On the other hand, the training which some of our scholars received in meeting another war-time condition is likely to have an important influence upon the relation of scholarship to industry. Many a scholar found for the first time that to meet a given condition a beautiful laboratory solution may be no solution at all, that the answer, to be effective, must meet the peculiar condition of quantity production.

The merit of the Liberty engine, of which I have already spoken, lies not alone in the excellence of its design, admirable as that is, but in the fact that it is so constructed that we could produce fifteen hundred of them in a single week. Or, to take another example, in 1914 we made all together eighteen hundred field glasses in this country. Last winter, thanks to [Pg 57]the coöperation of the scholars in the chemistry of glass and in the field of optics on the one hand, and of the experts in quantity production on the other, we were making thirty-five hundred pairs of field glasses each week. There are many other adaptations of scholarship to industry that are awaiting similar practical solutions. One of our most distinguished scholars in physics has said publicly that the day is past when one can defend any distinction between pure and applied science. One might as well try to distinguish between pure and applied virtue.

I said at the outset that I would venture later on an enlargement of the conception of the American scholar, in the light of what the past two years have made so clear. The scholar himself as well as those of us who are not scholars, needs, I think, to get a somewhat broader conception of the term; to develop it from its present popular connotation so that the attributes which come to one's mind will no longer be the static and selfish, but rather the dynamic and social. Emerson, in his essay on the American Scholar, seems to have some prophetic glimpse of this broader conception. He says, for example, that "action is with the [Pg 58]scholar subordinate, but it is essential; that without it, he is not yet man; that the true scholar grudges every opportunity of action passed by, as a loss of power"; and elsewhere, "that a great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think." The old idea of the scholar was the recluse, the individual; the new, it seems to me, should be one of a company of builders, each bringing to the common task, for the general welfare, his training and craft, his knowledge and ideas, to combine them with the gifts which his fellows are bringing.


Thus far almost all my modern instances have been taken from the realms of natural science. I need not remind you, however, that although science has tremendously broadened the range of scholarship, nevertheless the scholarship which is a practical asset is not and never will be limited to natural science. The record of the past two years has many an example of the essentially important work of scholars in other fields. The records are not so clear-cut, the results are perhaps more often negative; but the work was done and it counted. In the field of public information our American [Pg 59]scholars in the political sciences did excellent work under the direction of a Doctor of Philosophy of this University, and their record for fairness and sanity makes an enviable contrast with the pathetic propaganda of the German intellectuals. Similarly, the work of our Columbia scholars of the Legislative Drafting Bureau proved of great value in formulating and, perhaps more important, in discouraging legislation.

In general, however, I think we ought to face the fact squarely that our scholarship in man's relations with his fellow men, in his understanding of himself and his fellows as contrasted with his mastery of physical things, cannot claim so clear-cut a decision. Even in science we should not set too great store by ourselves. Professor, late Colonel, Millikan writes: "The contribution of the United States in research and development lines was less, far less in proportion to our resources and population, than that of England or France, and this in spite of the far heavier strain under which they were laboring." And yet, with us, science was better mobilized, better equipped, and can make a better showing than the humanities. Part of this can be readily explained by the statement [Pg 60]that preparation for war is after all engineering on a huge scale. But we must not prove too much if we are to profit by the lesson. For example, the war found us utterly unprepared in foreign-language knowledge; and we are still unprepared. How many real Americans, I don't mean recent immigrants, but men and women with our traditions and our point of view, can speak Russian? How many can speak the languages of the Near East or Far East?

Excellent work has been done by individual philosophers, economists, and sociologists in labor questions, in welfare work, on the war-time trade and industrial boards; but as a whole our scholars in these fields did not dominate the situation as did the men of science in theirs. Of course, their task was infinitely harder. For one thing, though we may be ready to confess our ignorance of calculus or colloidal chemistry or thermo-dynamics, we all believe in the validity of our off-hand judgments in politics and morals, and indeed in all the springs of human conduct. Yet when all allowances are made, the fact remains that there is a scholarship in these matters and we have American scholars in them, but that with distinguished exceptions these professionals permitted the [Pg 61]man in the street or the man in the editor's chair, or in Congress, or in the Cabinet, to proclaim his amateur pronouncement and to get away with it. Indeed, I will go further and say that not a few who know or ought to know that it is not necessary to be intolerant in order to be patriotic seemed to set their knowledge upon this point at one side. In war time it is a matter for the scholar's judgment and conscience to decide whether it is wise to attempt a leadership which at the moment will be misunderstood and probably ineffective, possibly even dangerous, because of the reaction, to the cause he has at heart; or to bide his time in silence, awaiting a more suitable time to be heard. But I submit that he is sinning against the light when he joins in the hue and cry of the untrained and the half-trained. The war has given the natural scientist his chance, and he has profited thereby. In the years to come the test will, I think, shift to the scholars in the human sciences. The crises of the future will have to do with problems of human conduct rather than of the control of physical things; and, as these crises come, our scholars in human relations should be more ready for the call to mobilize.

[Pg 62]In practically every case the instances that I have given of the successful tests of our scholarship involve the work of a member of Phi Beta Kappa or of the sister society, Sigma Xi; and I therefore may be permitted to say a word more directly to our younger members of the society of those seeking the philosophy of life, to our Columbia scholars in the making. In my time, which, by the way, was just twenty-one years ago, a man who wanted to live the life of a scholar was practically limited to teaching as the means of making his living. The result in the way of incompetent and halfhearted teaching we all know. Let me say to you of to-day that unless you want to teach, there is no reason under heaven why you should do so. There are plenty of other means of earning an honest living. The scholar is not nowadays limited to the academic halls. We have scholars of the first quality not only in special research institutions, but in government bureaus and in industrial organizations. The men in government service who could be spared from their other responsibilities for war work made an excellent war record. On the other hand, we want to remember that the real teacher, whether in the faculty or out of it, [Pg 63]has a tremendous advantage in the art of presentation. During the war the effectiveness of our scholar teachers was well tested by an entirely new set of pupils, pupils sometimes with eagles or stars on their shoulders, or in the civil field, captains of industry, clad in the glittering armor of a big business reputation.

Nowadays one cannot be a scholar in general. One has to have some specialty. As to what that specialty shall be in terms of usefulness to the community, I think I have given you examples enough to show that the range is almost unlimited. I had planned to sum up this by a brief record of the discovery and application to war purposes of helium; but I find that one of my own students in Columbia College, now a member of the Geological Survey, has beaten me out; and you can find the whole story in the May issue of the National Geographic Magazine. I cannot resist, however, a summary of the steps. First, the astronomer, just about the time this chapter was established, finds a new line in the solar spectrum. Thirty years later, the geologist comes upon an unusual stone and turns to a great chemist for its analysis, with the consequent recognition of helium as a mundane element. About the same time [Pg 64]comes its identification as one of the newly recognized ingredients of the air, and the study of its properties. Then a Kansas chemist discovers its presence in some natural gas about which he was consulted because it would not burn properly. Then comes the war with its incendiary bullet and the need of a non-inflammable content for balloons and dirigibles. Then the coöperation of physicist, engineer, and geologist—Canadian and American—makes helium available for this purpose. Before these researches helium cost $1700 a cubic foot and was obtainable only in Germany. The present price is 10 cents a cubic foot, and it is falling. The importance of all this for peace is very great. In these days of airplane hops we are forgetting that a Zeppelin made the trip from Bulgaria to what should have been German East Africa with medicines and ammunition. The Germans having disappeared in the meantime, the Zeppelin turned around and came back, making a continuous voyage of several thousand miles.

But do not forget that not all scholars made good in the great test. Let me sum up what I have already said. In the first place, to be useful the scholarship must be sound. The [Pg 65]near-scholar, the man who took the short-cut in preparation, proved to be a positive danger. The mere expert in some narrow field, the man who did not realize the implications of what he knew, was relatively useless. A man to succeed had to be intense without being narrow. Even among the sound scholars, the men who really knew, the isolated and insulated individual could very rarely make much headway. It was the open-minded scholar, the maker and keeper of friends, who got his chance, the scholar whose learning was to him a living thing, not necessarily to be displayed in the market place, and never for the sake of the display, but on the other hand never wrapped in a napkin and buried in the earth.

Will the scholar, now that his practical worth has been tested and proved, be content to slip back into relative obscurity; or will he, on the other hand, be tempted too far into the limelight and thereby lose those very qualities which gave him his value? Will he be satisfied with positions of leadership rather than leadership itself, which may be a very different thing? It is largely for you young men and young women of the rising generation of scholars to say.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] An address delivered before the New York Delta of Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia University upon the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Chapter, June 3, 1919.





[Pg 66]

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?[3]

I am going to try to select three or four general fields in which we Americans have had a chance to learn lessons of permanent value as the result of our war experience. Then I shall try to apply these to what seems to me the most typical specimen of the best in American life, a great American University; and finally, I shall try to apply them to the situation which faces you young men and women of the graduating class as you step out to take your places in the world. And in so doing I'm going to look deliberately on the bright side. There are troubles enough in the world to worry and depress us, and we have to face them, but let us face them with a confidence that is justified in the light of the examples of man's endurance, of his courage, of his possibilities of accomplishment, which it has been our privilege to witness within the lifetime of this academic generation.

[Pg 67]What have we learned? In the first place, we have learned that as a nation we possess the power to see a big job through, and we possess it because we have the qualities of youth—enthusiasm, learning capacity, energy, elasticity, initiative—the pioneering spirit. We have the shortcomings of youth also—impatience, superficiality, improvidence, cock-sureness—but when the test came we managed to strengthen our virtues and to a large extent to overcome our failings.

The various stocks that have emigrated to our shores have come as successive waves of pioneers, of men to whom new and unfamiliar conditions serve as an incentive rather than a discouragement, and it is the persistence of this pioneering spirit, essentially a youthful spirit, which has had much to do with our success.

What single group made the finest impression in the great war? I think we will agree that it was the American doughboy. As one saw him in France he was absolutely youth incarnate, and he is a cross section of our complex population. If anyone still doubts that all of these stocks, the Teutonic included, have been willing to do their share even at the risk or cost of life, let him read any of the lists of [Pg 68]battle casualties or the list of honors for heroic conduct and he will have the best kind of proof. Let us remember in this connection that nearly one-fourth of our drafted men couldn't speak and write English adequately when they entered the Army. In spite of a number of unsightly pieces of slag, which are either floating on the surface or have sunk to the bottom, the great national melting pot has evidently done its work well.

Our heterogeneous immigration, our enormous national resources, which have tempted us to live on capital rather than on interest, our prosperity, have made us neither fat nor flabby. We now know that as a people we don't really care about money or the money game if we are shown some other game better worth playing; that selfishness and luxury drop away as if by magic when they interfere with the keener satisfactions of giving one's self. Even for us stay-at-homes, the Liberty Loan people, Mr. Hoover, the Red Cross and other welfare workers were on hand to show us how to play the better game. I don't need to remind you of the details, nor that in spite of human grumbling and talk of sacrifice, in the bottom of our hearts we all enjoyed the process.

[Pg 69]In the second place, we have learned that to see the job through we need all of the nation, men and women, not merely the profession of arms and the mysterious powers of finance—we need all of everyone. We need them not as individuals but as a team, and we have learned that we can develop team play.

Our easiest jobs were the raising of our men and our money; our hardest, the moulding of the whole into an organic unity. Just as our young men by the millions took their place in the line when the bugle blew, older men by the tens of thousands left their private affairs to get along as best they might, and regardless of political affiliations or personal convenience, found place for themselves in the administrative army. And they were ably seconded by the women. Hundreds of men in key positions have gladly borne witness to the share which their secretaries and their other women associates played in bringing about the needed results.

The first days of the war were days of whirling confusion, colored by glowing forecasts. Then followed months of experimentation, by trial and error, of hope deferred by long delays, of well meant but none the less embarrassing [Pg 70]internal rivalries, of sudden spurts. Later came the days of last autumn, when the whole great machine was throbbing rhythmically and steadily, with only a minor "knock" here and there—a sure indication to the watchful enemy, who had had more than a taste of what the machine could produce, that the game was up; and finally the eleventh of November and the order to reverse the engines.

It ought to be evident from our experience that for any great enterprise we need all the young men and the young women, and all the older ones who are still young in heart. We need to know who they are, where they are, what they can do, and we need to touch them at every point; for not only do we need them all, but we need all of each one of them. We should never again face a great national crisis with nearly one-third of our men of military age unfit for hard physical work. We need campaigns of physical education and social hygiene, and we need to apply the lessons in human salvage which the army has learned during the war. But we need more than each individual and all of him. We must see to it that the individual star, of whatever magnitude, is subordinated to the team play of the group. [Pg 71]And team play means more than energy and "pep." It means a marshalling of the old fashioned and homely virtues of courtesy, deference and consideration.


In the third place, we have learned that to accomplish a great result we need the leadership of those who know and who know vividly and constructively. Our experience has been that in certain fields, finance, science, manufacturing in quantity production, medicine, we had a supply of those who knew. In other fields, in intimate knowledge of foreign conditions and foreign languages for example, we had not.

At first we didn't know where our leaders were, and in many cases we began by following false prophets. The value of one man with training, brains and persistence can be shown by a single example: There was a man who answered these qualifications connected with the Council of National Defence, not in a very exalted position. He was the first in all this country to see that the army program and the shipping program did not fit. It took him a long time to convince the two groups of overworked, harried officials that neither could play [Pg 72]the game alone; that the closest coöperation was necessary. He had no access to the records, but he finally managed to build up a convincing statement out of the shreds of information which he gathered here and there, and at last he succeeded in getting everyone concerned into the attitude of wanting to face the facts. Everyone would have had to face them sooner or later, but without the devotion and leadership of this one man, it would have been only as the result of a very serious dislocation of function.

One field in which the right leadership has been most brilliantly rewarded is that of medicine. Just consider what we have done in this field: The success of the anti-typhoid injections; the reduction in dysenteric diseases due to chlorination of drinking water; the encouraging fight against cerebro-spinal meningitis and pneumonia; the identification of trench fever, and the practical freedom from typhus. As to wounds, a tetanus antitoxin which has made lock-jaw almost a negligible disease; a serum against gas gangrene; the Carrel-Dakin method of chemical sterilization of wounds; the splinting of fractures on the battle field and overhead extension apparatus in the hospital. To quote Simon Flexner, "The entire psychology [Pg 73]of the wounded men was altered, the wards made cheerful and happy, pain abolished, infection controlled, and recovery hastened by means of the new or improved surgical and mechanical measures put into common use."


The fourth lesson of which I wish to speak is that a high aim and ideal is what counts most of all, what lifts the individual up from selfishness and sloth. To bind the country together and to make the transformation which still seems miraculous, we had a noble national aim, a complete dedication to the task before us, an utter absence of any selfish or self-seeking factor in the whole enterprise. The conduct of our soldiers, their submission to a discipline to which most of them were completely unused was, I think, in a very large measure due to the recognition of this aim. We recognized it as a nation and we recognized it in one another. The standard of contact set by our soldiers during the days of conflict is unique in military history. Whole divisions went for months without a single court-martial. The reason was, more than anything else, the national assumption that they would give a good account of themselves and the fact that they felt themselves in [Pg 74]training for the championship, and no man wanted to miss his chance on the battlefield for the sake of a selfish indulgence.

Some of the experiments in conduct tried in the American Expeditionary Forces were extraordinary in their success. The leave areas, an immense enterprise, were run on the basis of absolute freedom to the enlisted man. He lived in the best hotels in Europe and amused himself in casinos where crowned heads had been in the habit of gambling away the money of their subjects. He had no roll calls, no taps, no officers in sight, no military machinery whatever. He arose when he pleased, either before or after his breakfast; he ate and drank when he pleased, and he stayed out as late as he pleased. The physical and moral effect of this absolute change from the military régime was a very interesting and instructive phenomenon, but that is not the point I wish to make. Out of the thousands and thousands of men who were sent to these leave areas, there was hardly a single case in which a man abused the trust which was put upon him or failed to turn up on time to go back to the grind of military duty. This could never have been done with soldiers of another type, with soldiers lacking an ideal.

[Pg 75]Someone has recently written that fine minds have been finely touched by the war, and base minds basely. He might have added that wise minds have been wisely touched, and foolish minds foolishly. In general, I think it may fairly be said that when the appeal was to the finest in a man's character, the result was correspondingly fine.


These, it seems to me, are the four main things we have learned, or at any rate we have had a chance to learn. First, that we are a real nation, potentially strong with the strength of youth. Second, that to fulfill our mission, every man and woman and all of every such individual is an object of national concern; that we must be mobilized and we must continue our lessons in team play. We have still plenty to learn in this field. Third, that we must have and must recognize the leadership of those who know, which, after all, is the great test of a democracy. Fourth, that to bring out the best that is in us, as individuals and as a nation, we must have an aim, high, clear-cut and clearly understood. If, now, I attempt to apply these four lessons which we have had a chance to learn, to educational [Pg 76]conditions, and particularly to university conditions, it will be for three reasons: The first is the general wisdom of confining one's remarks to things he knows something about. The second, that there is no single institution more characteristic of the best in our American life than a great American University. And there is this third reason, that if we had not had a supply of young men with the stamp of the American college upon them, we could never have met the call for officers, for nearly a quarter of a million of them. I am told that the Germans were prepared to admit and to discount our wealth in money, in materials and in man power, but they looked forward confidently to a complete failure on our part in training officers to lead our men in battle. Of course, all the citizen officers who made good records were not college men, but the college trained citizens were the men who set the pace and made the standard.

It was Pitt who said, "The atrocious crime of being a young man I shall attempt neither to palliate nor to deny." Nor should a university seek to palliate or to deny the charge of being a place of resort for youth. A university, it seems to me, should be a place where the primary object is not the repression of [Pg 77]youthful exuberance nor the correction of youthful failings (though both may be necessary on occasion), but rather, a place for the encouragement of the great and vital qualities of youth—enthusiasm, energy, power of acquisition, sensitiveness of impression. It is the place where the older members of the community have the best chance to stay young. The university should be essentially a company of enthusiasts, of pioneers. There is a frontier for every worker to clear—no matter how narrow or how wide his horizon may be. In a university there is no proper place, among faculty or students, for the disillusioned, the cynical, the defeatist.


Now we come to the application of the second lesson, the lesson of mobilization, of team play. In the first place, no university is alive where mobilization is limited to the Recorder's office. In a live institution, regent, professor, student, janitor, each is a part of the game and must feel that he is. He must feel that in its administration the institution has learned the great lesson of direct and human personal contact. Science, among all its triumphs, cannot include any device for conveying a message from mind to mind or from heart to heart half [Pg 78]so good as the human voice and the human eye. Within the faculty, this element of human coöperation should be reflected by the vitality of the organism rather than by the complexity of the organization, which may not be vital at all. Each member must feel that the general repute is safeguarded by honest and intelligent standards, honestly and intelligently administered. The university, like the country at large, must make itself responsible for all of each and every student, his bodily condition, for example, just as directly as his mental.

It will be recalled that one of my justifications for applying war experiences to university conditions was the share which the college and university men had in building up our supply of officers. If we study why the college men made good officers, and make allowance for the fact that it is the kind of man who goes to college who is likely to make a good officer anyway, and all the other allowances we can think of, we can't dodge the conclusion that there is something outside of the college curriculum which has been an important factor in bringing about the results. On the other hand, important as the other factors are, the curriculum has had its share, and it is in my judgment a leading and [Pg 79]not always an adequately recognized share. The comfortable theory that once he has settled down to something important the college ne'er-do-well will suddenly blossom forth into a competent leader of men didn't work out in practice. It may have happened here and there, but it didn't happen as a general rule. In the fighting line, it was very generally the man with a sound academic record, not necessarily the Phi Beta Kappa lad, but the good scholar and active college citizen, the man who had taken the trouble to learn things and learn people, who made the best record. I naturally watched with particular interest the records of my own old students at Columbia, and I know that this is so.


It is a significant fact, however, for those of us who are interested in the welfare of college boys and girls, that the United States government deliberately built up what was to all intents and purposes an undergraduate college life for the young men of the army, with athletics, dances, dramatics, singing, and all the rest, even including opportunities for reading and study. Even the most hardened of regular officers, who at the first, I fear, regarded this as [Pg 80]some of the civilian foolishness with which all soldiers have to contend, came to see that the program was a vital factor in building up such a body of fighting men as they had never seen. And this is only another way of saying that if you want to use the human machine for any purpose, you must concern yourself with the whole of it. Human nature does not come in air-tight compartments.

President Wilson coined a phrase which has thoroughly gone the rounds when he said that the side-shows of college life should not overshadow nor distract from the entertainment in the main tent. We all agree to this. But I think we are more inclined than when the words were spoken to urge that the side-shows, properly and intelligently subordinated, should be under the same management as the main tent. The army has tried the experiment on a large scale and it has worked well. In February last there were in France and on the Rhine six million and a half individual participants in athletic games, ten million attendants on entertainments, nearly a quarter of a million students.


None of the lessons which the Army has [Pg 81]learned are more significant than those which have to do with mobilization and classification. The activities of the Provost Marshal General, of the Committee on Classification and Personnel, in coöperation with the Committee on Education, furnish the best record of large scale human engineering in the new science of personnel of which we have any record, either in this country or, I think, elsewhere.

A university like this one is an army, and not such a small army either, judging by peacetime standards. The United States found that it was worth while, indeed that it was absolutely necessary in organizing its forces, to find out everything it could about every man in the army, what he needed physically to increase his efficiency; what he needed to keep him interested and out of mischief; what he should have in the way of training—based on what he knew already and based on careful mental tests—to make him of the greatest usefulness; whether he had the will to win, and if not, whether anything could be done to get it into him.

In a word, the United States wanted to know just what each man's possibilities were. Was he officer material or non-com material? Should [Pg 82]he go into the line or one of the special corps—or to the labor battalion? As a result of this program, the Army succeeded in finding a place that counted for 98 per cent of the drafted men.

Now I realize that a university can't do all these things with its army in just the way the government can. It can't casually transfer a man from engineering to psychology, nor a girl from philosophy to cookery—or vice versa—no matter how desirable such a transfer might be for the individual and the community. But it can do a great deal more than it now does in finding out about all its members, informing them of their strength and weaknesses, in seeing that every student gets a chance to enjoy in so far as possible the high privileges of youth, and to get a helping hand over the bumps in the road, which also come with youth. Every student ought to have the opportunity to round out his character and his capacities. It ought not to be left to chance that any student gets the best personal contacts for him or her with faculty and fellow-students, the best opportunities for learning team play. Every student ought to leave with some definite aim in life, and if possible an aim high enough to be an ideal that is worth working for.

[Pg 83]A university is not doing its full duty if its athletics and social life are limited to those who need these the least; if its alumni are regarded merely as fillers of the grandstands or recipients of oratory, and possible sources of pecuniary support. The alumni are the best possible sources of keeping the faculty informed as to what the world really wants in the way of trained men and women, and, for the students, of information, suggestions, and jobs, both temporary and permanent.

I realize that many of these things are now done here and elsewhere, but in the light of what we have learned from the experience of the University of Uncle Sam, I am sure that our American universities and colleges have hardly scratched the surface of what they might do and what, I think, they will ultimately do in the realm of human engineering. Nearly all educational institutions merely follow what they find the leaders are doing, and in this field there is an opportunity, I am sure, for real leadership.

We know now that men and women can be measured by impersonal tests and that it is practicable to put aside the material which it is either impossible to fashion in the academic mould, or for which, even if the job is possible, [Pg 84]the expense in wear and tear is entirely beyond the value of the result to be obtained. To be specific, why shouldn't we have an intelligence test of candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, just as we had a physical and psychological examination for candidates for the flying schools?

I don't mean that we should leap from one illogical position clear across the road into another. Mental measurements are not yet an exact science, and a man of moderate ability, with a will to succeed, may be a better academic investment than his more brilliant brother who lacks that quality; but, by pruning very sparingly (one does not have to chop down a tree to prune it) the saving in time and energy will be enormous.

Fundamentally the human relationships are what count, the qualities leading to team play and coöperation, and away from isolation and its ills. This means that if a faculty is to exercise its leadership, it must know the student body, it must maintain and develop points of human touch. Impersonal tests, impersonal records, all that modern practice and modern science can teach us we must have, but these must be used only as the framework for what is [Pg 85]after all the fundamental thing, direct human contact between teacher and teacher, teacher and student, and student and student.


Now as to leadership, and in a university we can identify the leaders with the teachers, there is no doubt, I think, that the teachers' profession comes out of the war in a higher place than it went in, and the scholar goes back to his work with a feeling of confidence in himself in view of his record in competition and comparison with men in other callings. I venture to predict that we shall hear a good deal less frequently in the future the old gibe that the man who could do things did them and the man who couldn't, taught them. The teachers made good, not only because of their scholarship, but because of their personality. I think this experience of the last two years is going to accelerate greatly the movement which had already started of turning to the academic world for the man who can do things and do them with other people. Entirely apart from the contrasts in income, the sheer fun of executive work, with plenty of money to spend on what you want to get done, is a pretty strong temptation for a man with a heavy teaching [Pg 86]schedule and an annual department appropriation of say $75. Both the regular army officers who have made conspicuously good, and the scholars of the coöperative type who have made conspicuously good, are being actively bidden for by bankers and manufacturers and all sorts of people. Neither profession can compete on the purely financial side with these tempters and, in order to hold their first-rate men, they will each have to make some greater contribution in the things that money alone can't buy.

Both in the nation and in our republics of letters and science, we must learn to distinguish more clearly between the power that comes with knowledge, and the ability to talk about things. It was very interesting to watch in Washington the gradual substitution of the man with the latter quality by the man with the former in positions of responsibility, and I am going to confess that, in the early days, some of the conferences which it was my privilege or my duty to attend, reminded me for all the world of certain faculty meetings, in which gentlemen without definite knowledge of the matter in hand were discussing at considerable length what they were pleased to call principles, but which were really off-hand impressions.

[Pg 87]I think that in their service to the university and to the nation, the scholars may well profit by the demonstration that it was not only the man who knew his subject, but the man who knew how to deal with his fellow men, who was likely to make his impression. Isn't there such a thing as academic provincialism, even within the walls of a man's own university, certainly as between institution and institution, which can be remedied by the encouragement of these social and coöperative sides of the scholar's character? It seems to me that we all should face a fundamental extension in the definition of a scholar, away from the individual, the selfish, out to the social and constructive.

In our educational institutions scholarship has three functions: To broaden the field of existing knowledge, and the war has shown us that every field has its valuable practical applications; to train the coming generation of experts, and any country needs not only a handful of distinguished leaders but a great body of well-trained men and women who, when the emergency arises, stand ready to meet it; and last but not least, to inspire a recognition of what scholarship is and a respect for it in the minds of the general [Pg 88]students, few of whom, by the most generous stretch of the imagination, can be regarded as scholars themselves, but whose influence in their generation throughout the country is a very important factor. Our nation needs a respect for expert knowledge and it needs a respect for intelligence, and our college graduates can do more than any other group to develop this respect.


We have taken up three of our four lessons as these affect the university: the emphasis on youth, the need of mobilization and team play, and the need of leadership. There remains the fourth factor, a high, clear-cut aim.

The most serious charge against the American undergraduate in the past has been the lack of a sense of responsibility. We now know from their war records that the sense of responsibility lay latent in thousands of these boys and was only awaiting an impulse sufficiently strong to arouse it.

President Hibben of Princeton, who ought to know the American undergraduate if anybody does, said recently: "Young men are capable of far greater amounts of intensive work day in and day out than we had dreamed of; capable of greater concentration of mind upon their [Pg 89]tasks. They respond more quickly than we have conceived to the call of duty. The sense of responsibility is there latent, and we teachers must endeavor to quicken and to appeal to it. We have seen that when the occasion comes these young men rise to meet it."

We can't very well stage a world war for the purpose, and I don't think we need wait for any such crisis to bring it out. There is in every normal, wholesome-minded student some motor nerve that can be touched in such a way as to release that type of coördinated energy which we call a sense of responsibility. This all goes back to knowing our men and women and establishing human contacts and human confidences.

In spite of individual disappointments, and as a college dean, I have had my share, I am confident that the normal young American either already possesses as a motive force some worth-while aim or that he can be guided toward such an aim if approached in the right way.

Let me quote a paragraph or so from the report of the War Department Committee on Education:

"Because the war did completely organize [Pg 90]the nation for a united drive and thus did expose a magnificent national morale, many are inclined to believe that war is necessary to call forth such consecration and self-forgetful service. Analysis of the war training, however, reveals a point of view and a method of procedure that is definitely designed to develop team-play and to enhance morale whether there be war or not. If these methods are applied to education in times of peace, they certainly will produce some effect even though the result is not as profoundly striking as it was during the war. Among the many significant features of war training, the following are mentioned as worthy of particular consideration for transfer to school practice:

"As a primary policy, a nation at war is obliged to recognize that every individual is an asset capable of useful service in some particular line of work of direct benefit to the country. In order to make the most efficient use of all its resources, it is necessary to make strenuous exertions to discover what each individual is best qualified to do and to train each to use his abilities in the most effective manner. Applied to education this fundamental attitude produces two results that are of [Pg 91]importance in the development of morale. The teacher's point of view shifts from a critical one, with attention focused on discovering whether the individual measures up to the academic standards fixed by school authorities, to one of friendly, not to say eager interest to discover what each individual really can do well. The student's spirit also changes from one of discouragement and doubt of his ability ever to make good, to one of interest and desire for achievement. Both of these results are of large importance in releasing energy for both the teacher and the student. They also have an immediate bearing on the enhancement of morale."

In any place of campaign to this end within a college or university, the first thing to do is to build around that vague but very real emotion called college spirit, to supplement this by guiding our young people to enlist in worth-while, nation-wide or world-wide causes (we are singularly provincial about this in America), and by ensuring better teaching and supervision and better coördination of work.

There is no question that we have underestimated both the American undergraduate's capacity for intellectual work and his real pleasure in it [Pg 92]when he feels it worth while. One of my friends was telling me of his experiences as commanding officer of one of the ground schools for aviators, where a large proportion of the candidates were college undergraduates, and I asked him if he had had any troubles as to discipline. "Yes indeed," he replied, "night after night we'd catch some fellows studying with a peep-light under their blankets, after taps had sounded."

Any doubts as to the instinctive reaction of the normal, healthy young American toward educational opportunities were dispelled by the experiences of the army in France after the armistice. The let-down, after the terrific physical and emotional strain, the impatience regarding any delay as to return home, combined to make a pretty serious situation as to the morale of our troops. After some misguided and nearly disastrous experiments as to the curative properties of heavy drill and strict discipline, the A.E.F. recognized the necessity for a prompt and thorough stimulation of all the welfare activities, and a real educational program; and it was straight, old-fashioned book-work more than it was the movies, or athletics, more even than Miss Elsie Janis, which turned [Pg 93]the corner for us. In all, more than 200,000 men volunteered for the privilege of studying. The military order was often reversed and majors sat at the feet of the corporals or privates who had been selected as teachers. The reports as to the intensity of the work of teachers and students alike should put any of us professionals to shame.


Just now we are hearing a great deal about the benefits of discipline. I think what the speakers are really talking about, though they don't recognize it themselves, is the benefit of the state of mind which accepts and welcomes discipline. We are not, even as the result of the war, a disciplined people in the sense that Germany is, or was, and we can thank God for it. We shall never want in this country a general subordination of the individual will and initiative to external control. Discipline is a means and not an end. If discipline, as such, externally imposed, were so important a factor in success as many people seem to think to-day, we could look through a list of ex-enlisted men in the army and navy—I mean the men enlisted and discharged during peace time—and find a relatively large number who made [Pg 94]conspicuously good records after returning to civil life. As a matter of fact, we find nothing of the kind.

What we do find is that not a few enlisted men who chose the army or the navy as their permanent career have won commissions and made fine records. There were no better general officers in the war than men like Harbord of our army and Robertson of the British, both of whom rose from the ranks. But isn't it fair to say that the discipline imposed on these men was accepted gladly and accepted in the terms of their fundamental interest, and that these men are not really exceptions to what I have said?

I venture to predict that there will be a very different record to tell as to the success in civil life of those men now leaving the Army, who, because they believed in the cause and wished to participate to the full in the great enterprise, gladly submitted themselves to the discipline for the purpose of increasing their efficiency.

In a month or so you can teach an enthusiastic man, who is fired by a big idea, all the discipline he needs for carrying out his duties and profiting by his opportunities, but you can't reverse the process and incite enthusiasms as a result of the application of discipline.

[Pg 95]Don't think that I want to minimize the merits of military discipline for military purposes. Of course, coördination and subordination are absolutely necessary in the handling of large bodies of men. Even the men in France who deserted to the front, as many of them did, no matter how much we may sympathize with their desire to get into the game, had to be disciplined. Someone had to stay behind and see to the supplies. The point we are discussing is the carrying over of this principle of military discipline intact into civilian life. So far as discipline brings about regularity of life, of exercise, so long as it ministers to alertness, we can use it, but as between discipline on the one hand, and initiative and team play on the other, to meet our academic or our national needs, I am for initiative and team play.

Please don't misunderstand me. By reducing the present emphasis on external discipline, after childhood has been passed, I don't mean a lowering of standards. External discipline, it seems to me, is often really imposed as a substitute for high standards; something supposed to be just as good and more easy to keep in stock. The standards of the worth-while organization, and these are the outward expression [Pg 96]of its aims, its ideals, ought to be high enough and intelligently enough administered to make sure that the men and women who are unable to provide their own discipline, should in the general interest be painlessly but promptly removed from the group.

Here is a credo for the American people, from the pen of a regular army officer. It's a pretty good one for an American University: "To foster individual talent, imagination and initiative, to couple with this a high degree of coöperation, and to subject these to a not too minute direction; the whole vitalized by a supreme purpose, which serves as the magic key to unlock the upper strata of the energies of men."


Finally, let me try to apply these lessons to you young men and women of the graduating class.

Keep in good physical shape. Overwork is usually a combination of bad air, bad feeding, and lack of exercise and sleep. See that you don't go stale. If you lack the zest of life, find out what the trouble is; whether it is your teeth or your liver or your soul. Picture to yourself what Theodore Roosevelt got out of life.

[Pg 97]Be honest with yourself. Do your own thinking and do it straight. This, strangely enough, is perhaps the thing which you will find hardest to do after the undergraduate atmosphere. A student body is, or at any rate was before the war, the most convention ridden group of which I have any knowledge. I am all for conventions, because they save a great deal of time and worry, but only so far as we recognize them as conventions and do not exalt them into principles or philosophical truths. Remember that the public opinion of America is an infinitely more important thing to the world than ever before, and that you are each to be a part of it.

Keep your intellectual interests and your interest in your alma mater, not in her athletics and her fraternities alone. Remember that as alumni of this University you are citizens of no mean city. Recruit men and women whom she ought to have and who ought to have her, remembering that the danger to this country from the inside, and it is no inconsiderable danger, is mainly due to the misdirected zeal of sincere people who lack knowledge and background. Take for example the employer who can't see beyond the point of telling his [Pg 98]men to "take it or leave it," and the workman whose sense of real or fancied injustice has brought him to what with our children we know as the kicking and biting stage. It is too late to do much with the present adult generation except by main strength and awkwardness, but a recruit for higher education from either of these groups is a good national investment.

Keep your human contacts. Don't be a "glad-hander" but do at least your share. It takes two to make and keep alive a friendship, just as it does a quarrel. There is something worth while in everyone. Give yourself a chance to find what it is. Practice following and, as the chance comes to you, practice leading, but above all, practice team play. Keep yourself ready to take the next step, whatever it may be. There is a story of Marshal Joffre, of which I can at least say that it is good enough to be true. After the first battle of the Marne some enthusiast was proclaiming him as a second Napoleon and laying it on pretty thick. The old gentleman stood it as long as he could and then said: "No, Napoleon would have known what to do next, and I don't."

Keep your enthusiasms and your ideals. In other words, keep your youth. In choosing [Pg 99]your life work, get into something in which the policy and practice are such that you can throw your whole soul into the job. Don't take yourself seriously, but take your opportunities for usefulness seriously. Find out the callings in which America is short. There are plenty of them, as the war has shown. Think over whether it isn't possible for you to be one of the men or one of the women who, from your training and momentum and vision, will be selected ten or fifteen or twenty years hence, to take on some important job, with the nation as your client, as the one person best qualified to fill it.

We no longer have to prove that it pays to know, to really know almost anything that is worth while. It pays in money, if that is what one wants; it pays in the more enduring satisfactions of life, in the pleasure that comes from exact knowledge and intellectual pioneering, in the almost unique joy of creation without the responsibilities of possession, and in the feeling of individual readiness to be of use in meeting the problems which the years allotted to your generation will surely bring forth.

FOOTNOTE:

[3] Commencement address delivered at the University of Michigan, June 26, 1919.

 

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