They are not puny deeds to her; they are quite the most considerable performances given in all the universe of men. For you did them, you know, and that is enough. To his mother every man is a hero.
So let your tale to her be boldly told and lovingly. And be sure that it is a narrative of purity, things honorable and of good report. Return to the habit of your youth, and at her knees establish again the old confessional. And then, with your secrets handed over to her and safely locked in her heart, with her hand of blessing on your head, and her smile of confidence, pride, and approval glorifying her face, resolve to again go out into the world where your place is, and be worthy of this new baptism of manhood you have again received in the sanctuary of the old home.
These are all simple things, commonplace things, things easy to do. They have nothing extraordinary about them. And yet, if you will do them, the world will back you as a winner against men who are a great deal smarter than you are, but who with all their smartness are not smart enough to do these plain and kindly things.
1. The Young Man who Goes
Collis P. Huntington was a notable practical success. He was wise with the hard wisdom of the world, and he had the genius of the great captain for choosing men. No business general ever selected his lieutenants with more accurate judgment. His opinion on men and affairs was always worth while. And he thought young men who meant to do anything except in the learned professions wasted time by going to college.
So when, searching for my final answer to the question this moment being asked by so many young Americans, “Shall I go to college,” I answer in the affirmative, I do so admitting that a negative answer has been given by men whose opinions are entitled to the greatest possible respect.
I admit, too, that nearly every city—yes, almost every town—contains conspicuous illustrations of men who learned how to “get there” by attending the school of hard knocks. Certainly some of the most distinguished business careers in New York have been made by young men who never saw a college.
You find the same thing in every town. I have a man in mind whose performances in business have been as solid as they are astonishing. Twenty years ago he was a street-car conductor; to-day he controls large properties in which he is himself a heavy owner; and a dozen graduates of the high-class universities of Europe and America beg the crums that fall from the table of his affairs.
In his Phi Beta Kappa Address Wendell Phillips cleverly argues that the reformers of the world, and most of those whose memories are the beloved and cherished treasures of the race, were men whose vitality had not been reduced by college training, and whose kinship with the people and oneness with the soil had not been divorced by the artificial refinement of a college life. But Phillips was bitter—even fanatical—on this subject; and was, in himself, a living denial of his own doctrine.