Inaugural Address of The Rev. John Gordon
as President of Howard University, March 30, 1904

       Mr. President, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the Faculties and Student Body of Howard University, and Ladies and Gentlemen:--In accepting this trust, which the President of the Board of Trustees has so gracefully placed in my hands, I must express my appreciation of the honor done me; not only of the mode in which it is consummated to-day, but also of the various steps by which God has led us to this point. You have placed in my hands the keys of Howard University, which were carried in turn by the Rev. Charles B. Boynton, D.D., the Rev. Byron Sunderland, D.D.; that soldierly founder of schools and colleges, Gen. Oliver O. Howard; the Hon. Edward P. Smith; that able executive, Dr. William W. Patton; that graceful scholar and poet, Dr. Jeremiah Eames Rankin, my predecessors, and yourself and other acting Presidents--men all notable for faith and achievement.

       As I receive them it occurs to me that in the changes of the centuries keys which have been used so largely for one of their functions--that of locking fetters on slaves, and sealing prison doors, and making depositories of learning safe as against those who would break in, and fastening the gates of nations as against the coming of barbaric hordes, and locking up religion and its privileges as against the uncircumcised and unclean--are now used rather for another of their purposes--that of unlocking fetters, and prison doors and abodes of learning, and city gates, and churches--in the hope that one day all doors and gates may be unlocked and through wide open doorways' the King of Glory may come in.

      I take it you mean me to use these keys for the purpose of unlocking--what shall I say?--oh, so many things. For six months I have lived on University Hill, which faces full and fair that other hill where proudly stands the Senate House of the nation. It has seemed to me significant that the Capitol and Howard University face each the other. The one has the power of the nation.

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August 1999