Hon. A. C. Braxton
V. P. I. FINAL EXERCISES
The Town of Blacksburg is Crowded With Visitors.
BRAXTON'S FINE ADDRESS
He Delivers the Annual Oration to the Graduating Class — Degrees of Masters of Science and Bachelors of Science Conferred.
(Special to The Times-Dispatch.) BLACKSBURG. VA., June 17.— The commencement day exercises at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute to-day were attended by a very large crowd. The town and the campus are full of people, and hardly more could be accommodated.
The feature of to-day was the splendid address to the graduating class by Hon. A. C. Braxton, which was delivered to an attentive and appreciative audience.
MR. BRAXTON'S SPEECH.
Mr. Braxton said in part:
Young Gntletmen[sic] of the Graduating Class, Ladles and Gentlemen,— Human nature is prone to measure everything by itself; consequently, as we grow old, as our powers diminish and our infirmities increase, we are prone to think the whole race is degenerating and the country going to the dogs. To any such war-worn veterans, fearful for the future welfare of our country, I would recommend an occasional review of the new troops that are about to take the field; for I am sure that, with the sight of such vigorous, intelligent, and splendid young manhood as I now see before me in this assembly, no man could ever despair of the Commonwealth.
In such a presence he could but see for himself that, in spite of what all the old fogies and croakers may say to the contrary, and notwithstanding the great virtues and achievements of our glorious ancestors who "died in honor's lofty bed," the aspiring and persistent American nation is still avanclng[sic] its high standards of individual efficiency.
But it is well, my friends, that nature has thus equipped you; because the responsibilities of American citizenship are not lightly to be borne. The appointed place of our great country is in the vanguard of nations, and upon your generation will it soon depend for the maintenance of its exalted position.
Never forget your responsibilities as members of the imperial Caucasian race and an sovereign American citizens, and see to it that neither race nor country ever suffers discredit through you.
Both God and posterity will hold all men accountable according to their opportunities; therefore, "it is a solemn thing to belong to a nation specially favored of God."
The diplomas which you have obtained here are not laurels upon which you may rest, but rather certificates of your fitness for service, yet to come, in the front ranks of that great struggle which for countless ages has been bequeathed by each generation to its successor. See to it then, that your conduct in "the world's broad field of battle" does not belie your certificates nor disappoint the just expectations of your friends.
But the severity of modern competition is the spur to modern progress, and the increased struggle for existence has caused this to be the most practical of all ages.
What the world now demands is ideas instead of dreams, deeds instead of words. What it needs most are men who do things rather than men who pose—men who help, arther[sic] than men who entertain— constructors rather than critics—artisans rather than artists. How much more important then is it to know what is going on in the world now than what wont on two thousand years ago, and to understand how things are done, now, rather than how the Greeks and Romans did them—to be able to do them ourselves rather than to learn how others do them.
However great his natural abilities, the only man who ever accomplishes anything in this world is the workingman. You sometimes hear a discussion as to whether doctors, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, farmers or some other class of men work the hardest. My friends, there is no legitimate calling in the world in which a man can succeed without work, or at which he may not work himself to death, if he will. Show me a successful man in any walk of life, and I will show you a hard-working man. The heaven-born genius that indolently depends upon the inspiration of the moment, accomplishes nothing in this world but an occasional sensation and ultimate failure.
Caesar, Newton and Shakespeare were great geniuses, but they were almost equally great workers. In fact, true genius has been well defied as an infinite capacity for painstaking work.
WORK IS NATURE'S LAW.
Work is nature's law. If you wish to be strong and healthy, work; if you wish to be happy and contented, work; if you wish to help yourself, work; if you wish to help others, work; if you wish to keep out of mischief and bad habits, work; if you wish to have the confidence and respect of your neighbors, work: if you wish to be prosperous, work; and when you do not know what else to do, turn in and work.
Do not work yourself to death, or try to do everything at once, but work earnestly and steadily, and you will surely be rewarded, even though you have nothing to show for it but the testimony of a good conscience and a sense of duty well done—for "the end of that man is peace."
Remember, then, that it is work, and not luck, that brings success, and that great deeds are accomplished by persistent labor rather than by inspiration.
"The heights great men have reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward through the night."
It is said to have been one of the distinguishing characteristics of the ancient Romans that they were never elated by victory nor depressed by defeat. Imitate them in this virtue, and ever keep your equanimity on an even keel. When Varro reported the annihilation of Rome's entire army at Cannae, the Senate, who otherwise held him in contempt, gave him a vote of thanks, because he had not despaired of the Commonwealth, which, in spite of that crushing blow, was ultimately victorious. My friends, when the clouds of adversity have enveloped you in darkness, remember Varro and his legions, and let your watchword ever be "nil desperandum!"
But be not deceived; neither brains nor energy, nor courage, nor all three of them combined are sufficient of themselves to insure success. These qualities, it is true, may bring temporary prosperity—l say temporary for, at best, it ends with our transitory breath—but if success means the accomplishment of the great object of our existence, then surely mere business prosperity cannot be called success—for "man heapeth up riches and cannot tell who shall gather them."
My friends, character-building is the main purpose of our belng— lt is our reason d'etre—and he only can be called successful who builds for himself a noble character — that alone lives after him— that alone will benefit him in his lonely journey to the undiscovered country.
Remember, then, to keep bright the mirror of your integrity. "Be a palace for the crowned truth to dwell in," and let no temptation swerve you a hair's breadth from the straight line of uprightness and honesty, or betray you into any act of which you would be ashamed for the whole world to know.
Into your hands, as members of the coming generation of a free country, will soon be delivered the torch of human liberty, which has been guarded by your ancestors for a thousand years. See that you transmit it undimmed to your posterity.
Remember, that man cannot govern others till they first learn to govern themselves, and that no free government can ever endure whose individual citizens have not learned self-control, selfdenial and self-reliance. Practice these three virtues, and all will be well.
Go forth then, my gallant young soldiers, to take the men's places in the grim battle of life.
"Like bold champions, assume the lists,
Nor ask advice of any other thought,
But faithfulness and courage."
From the Times Dispatch (Richmond), Volume 1903, Number 16270, 18 June 1903, pg. 6