President Horde, former Presidents of this Association, and ladies and gentlemen:
Although I am exceedingly proud of the associations I was privileged to have with the educators of this country, I must confess that before such a body as this I still feel a bit of an interloper, particularly if I am to talk about matters affecting the education of our youth.
However, both as a military man, and since, I have been interested in the act that gave birth to the land-grant colleges of the United States. Of course, I am not going to trace the legislative history of that act. All of you know it better than I do. But there are two or three things I think that I can mention about that act which would lead me to the principal thought I should like to leave with you this morning.
First of all, that act had as one of its purposes the training of young men for service in the Armed Forces. I am one of those who can bear sincere witness to the efficacy of that training, and to the very great services you people and your predecessors have rendered to the United States of America on the field of battle.
And I think I would be remiss in my capacity as Commander in Chief, should I fail to pay my tribute to all of that great body of individuals who have graduated from the military sections of your colleges, and to those who dedicated their talents to helping in that education.
Now secondly, in 1862, we know that higher education was largely confined to the classical--the lawyer, the teacher, and the preacher who was educated. And it was expected that he should have a very large view of our country and our society, our history--world history--in order that he could help those more ignorant.
But the practical side of our education had been very largely neglected. In fact, West Point was the first engineering school established in this country, and for a long time provided the only engineers we had. And it is for that reason, I think, that to this day military engineers are in charge of all our rivers and harbors work, and so on.
But this act did bring a certain practical streak, both in the agricultural, mechanical, and industrial arts, into our education that was sadly needed and, up to then, lacking.
But you will remember that Mr. Morrill also said, as he was advocating the enactment of his bill, that one of the purposes was to bring education into the outlying portions of our country, to bring education closer to the people--higher education--and at a price they could afford. And moreover, he said, not only a practical education but a liberal education.
Now I have no particular admiration for my own definition of "liberal," but it doesn't agree with many of the definitions you sometimes read in the papers. But I conceive liberal to mean that type of education that lays the groundwork of understanding of our society, the kind of education that allows an individual to relate one fact to another, to get the whole in the proper perspective with relationship to the society in which we live, including the world society.
As distinguished from mere fact and knowledge, and technique and practice, it means, in my mind, understanding of knowledge rather than mere knowledge.
Now this leads me to the thought I should like to leave with you: there is no aspiration, there is no dream on the horizons of man's hopes and beliefs and faiths that is so strong, so vivid, as the dream of peace--lasting peace.
There are many things that must be understood, and many things that must be done, if we are to make progress toward the realization of that dream.
But there is one thing, I think, that educators cannot afford to forget, and that is this element of understanding as opposed to mere knowledge.
We know, let us say, that the people of a certain country are suspicious of our motives, when we know those motives to be good; or are so ignorant of what we are trying to do in the world that our efforts to help are translated into efforts to dominate.
Now, unless we make the effort--and I mean the effort right down at the grass-roots level of our country--to understand something of the culture of that people, of its history, its aspirations, the tribulations and trials through which that people may have passed--unless we understand that, we will never comprehend why our motives are misunderstood.
In like fashion, unless those people can gain some understanding of us--of our great amalgamation of races and colors and religions and nationalities--unless they can understand how we feel, what are our loftiest aspirations, then how can we expect them to believe that someone is truly altruistic in his purposes--or let us put it more specifically, can any nation be altruistic?
You will recall the famous article of only a few years ago, which said the greatest mistake that America makes is to assume there is morality in international relationships. But how are we going to have long-term peace without morality? So by all means let us make the pragmatic approach, meeting the temporary and short-term problem: let us be strong, but don't let us be strong only in tanks, guns, and planes and ships. There is no lasting peace there. The most they can do is to protect you in what you have for the moment.
But we want to progress. We want to lighten the burden of carrying things, to use our substance and our man-hours, and our sweat and our toil and our brains, to raising the standards of a people, its spiritual standards, its intellectual standards, and its capacity for happiness, that is what we really mean; and in doing so, raise the standards of the world in these same regards. Only as we can do that, can we look toward permanent peace.
You can achieve great progress, of course, by successful conferences addressed to particular things, as long as you are strong, know what you want, and don't deviate from what you know to be the right. But over the long-term, when we think of our children and our grandchildren, I think it is enough to say that peace is not primarily in the hands of elected political leaders, it is in the hands of the family, the home, the church, and the school.
And if the purpose of the Morrill Act was to bring higher education and understanding closer to the people, then I should say that this group has not only a wonderful challenge in front of it, but it possibly has the broadest opportunity now open to any comparable group in the United States of America.
I hope I have not sounded either visionary or pontifical. I have told you only what I believe.
Thank you very much.