The sum of practical wisdom for young men is to keep close to the elemental principles. I think Marcus Aurelius says, in his philosophy, “Let your principles be few and elemental.” And here again the Bible puts it even better than this glorious old Stoic, directing us “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
Above all things, do not lose your confidence in your fellow men. You are not a very great man if you are not great enough to stand betrayal. You would better have your confidence broken a dozen times a day than to fall into the attitude of universal suspicion.
Keep your sweet faith in our common humanity, do not excite your nerves and intellect by intoxicants, keep close to the saving and elevating influence of women, and then—go ahead and work as hard as you please, be as keen as you choose, fight as savagely as you like, and there is no power that can stay your conquest of the world; for the very nature of things themselves and the whole order of the universe are your allies and your servants. But do not get the impression that you are to be maudlinly “good.” Oh, no! that is as fatal almost as wickedness.
THE YOUNG MAN AND THE NATION
You are an American—remember that; and be proud of it, too. It is the noblest circumstance in your life. Think what it means: The greatest people on earth—to be one of that people; the most powerful Nation—to be a member of that Nation; the best and freest institutions among men—to live under those institutions; the richest land under any flag—to know that land for your country and your home; the most fortunate period in human history—to live in such a day. This is a dim and narrow outline of what it means to be an American. Glory in that fact, therefore. Your very being cannot be too highly charged with Americanism. And do not be afraid to assert it.
The world forgives the egotist of patriotism. “We Germans fear God, and nothing else!” thundered Bismarck on closing his greatest speech before the Reichstag. It was the very frenzy of pride of race and country. Yet even his enemies applauded. If it was narrow, it was grandly patriotic. It was more: it appealed to the elemental in their breasts.
Love of one’s own is a universal and deathless passion, common not only to human beings but also shared by all animate creation. Be an American, therefore, to the uttermost limit of consciousness and feeling. Thank God each day that your lot has fallen beneath the Stars and Stripes. It is a sacred flag. There is only one holier emblem known to man.
You have American conditions about you every day, and so their value and advantage become commonplace and unnoted. To any young man afflicted with the disease of thinking life hard and burdens heavy in this Republic, I know of no remedy equal to a trip abroad. You will find things to admire in France; you will applaud things in Germany; you will see much in other lands that suggests modifications of American methods.