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The Call of the Twentieth Century An Address to Young Men   By: (1851-1931)

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E text prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Marvin A. Hodges, and Project Gutenbert Distributed Proofreaders


An Address to Young Men


Chancellor of Leland Stanford Junior University


To Vernon Lyman Kellogg

So live that your afterself the man you ought to be may in his time be possible and actual. Far away in the twenties, the thirties of the Twentieth Century, he is awaiting his turn. His body, his brain, his soul are in your boyish hands. He cannot help himself. What will you leave for him? Will it be a brain unspoiled by lust or dissipation, a mind trained to think and act, a nervous system true as a dial in its response to the truth about you? Will you, boy of the Twentieth Century, let him come as a man among men in his time, or will you throw away his inheritance before he has had the chance to touch it? Will you let him come, taking your place, gaining through your experiences, hallowed through your joys, building on them his own, or will you fling his hope away, decreeing, wanton like, that the man you might have been shall never be?

The new century has come upon us with a rush of energy that no century has shown before. Let us stand aside for a moment that we may see what kind of a century it is to be, what is the work it has to do, and what manner of men it will demand to do it.

In most regards one century is like another. Just as men are men, so times are times. In the Twentieth Century there will be the same joys, the same sorrows, the same marrying and giving in marriage, the same round of work and play, of wisdom and duty, of folly and distress which other centuries have seen. Just as each individual man has the same organs, the same passions, the same functions as all others, so it is with all the centuries. But we know men not by their likenesses, which are many, but by differences in emphasis, by individual traits which are slight and subtle, but all important in determining our likes and dislikes, our friendships, loves, and hates. So with the centuries; we remember those which are past not by the mass of common traits in history and development, but by the few events or thoughts unnoticed at the time, but which stand out like mountain peaks raised "above oblivion's sea," when the times are all gathered in and the century begins to blend with the "infinite azure of the past." Not wars and conquests mark a century. The hosts grow small in the vanishing perspective, "the captains and the kings depart," but the thoughts of men, their attitude toward their environment, their struggles toward duty, these are the things which endure.

Compared with the centuries that are past, the Twentieth Century in its broad outlines will be like the rest. It will be selfish, generous, careless, devoted, fatuous, efficient. But three of its traits must stand out above all others, each raised to a higher degree than any other century has known. The Twentieth Century above all others will be strenuous, complex , and democratic . Strenuous the century must be, of course. This we can all see, and we have to thank the young man of the Twentieth Century who gave us the watchword of "the strenuous life," and who has raised the apt phrase to the dignity of a national purpose. Our century has a host of things to do, bold things, noble things, tedious things, difficult things, enduring things... Continue reading book >>

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