TO MRS. FRANKLIN K. LANE
Essex on Champlain, N. Y.
Washington, June 22, 1918
My dear Anne,—I am just back this minute from Brown [University] where I had a right good time. I arrived in the morning early and kept the Dean waiting for me for a half an hour. ...
After breakfast I went over to the University grounds, which are very quaint, on the crest of a hill with fine old buildings, and there found that Hughes was the hero of the day, of course; every step he took he was cheered. He was very genial about it. We marched in our robes, down through the winding streets of this old New England town to a meeting house one hundred and seventy-five years old, and there we sat in pews, while the President of Brown, Mr. Faunce, gave the degrees in Latin. I have not heard so much Latin since I left school. There were a pretty good looking lot of boys, about half of them New Englanders and about half of them Westerners. We heard some orations by the students and then marched up the hill again where we had lunch, and then went over to a great tent on the campus where William Roscoe Thayer—who wrote the life of Hay—President Faunce, Judge Brown, Mr. Hughes, and I spoke.
I spoke for about half an hour. My speech fitted in very well, because Thayer preceded me, and he spoke of the lack of an American spirit; I had already prepared a speech upon the abundance of American spirit, [Footnote: Speech published in book entitled, The American Spirit.] so that I answered Thayer, and answered him with scorn. I told him that if New England was growing weak in her American pride or her vigor that we would take these boys and carry them out West where there was not any lack of virility or hardiness or red blood, and that if they wanted to know whether the American was willing to fight or not, to go to any recruiting office of the United States to-day and see how crowded it was. I told them about our pioneers, who were taking up ten or twelve million acres of land, the men who had gone to Alaska, and then turned upon the real proposition which was that there was a difference between national spirit and martial spirit.
War used to be the only opportunity for glory or romance or achievement, while there are a million other opportunities now open, because man’s imagination has grown. In the morning the College had given honorary degrees of LL.D. to Brand Whitlock and Herbert Hoover. So when I came to the close of my talk I told them about Hoover’s Belgian work, and that Brand Whitlock had refused to leave Brussels; and while there was no English and no French and no Italian and no Spanish and no other flag in Brussels, the Stars and Stripes in front of the American Legation had never come down, and the Belgian peasant when he went to his work in the morning took his hat off in honor of our flag, and I asked those people to stand with me in front of that peasant to take their hats off and take heart.