|I do not know that there is any special
potency in A, and yet there is, for A means also B, and A, B, C, involves, before one can
stop, X, Y, Z and these in their turn, etc., which means no stopping place until he shall
have gone as far as these learned gentlemen who have honored us to-day with their presence
and their words, and as far as Edward Everett Hale has gone. When they taught him his
alphabet they lost the power of saying to him "thus far shalt thou go and no
So, when one State says the education of one class of its citizens shall end when they finish sixth grade, or when another says it shall terminate with graduation from the high school and they shall not have collegiate educations, or when there is an agreement to give them only sufficient education to make them good farmers and mechanics and to discountenance that which opens the professions--those who do this do not know their own A, B, C's; they have only played with them. They do not know how, in those tiny black dots called letters lurks a microbe, virulent or beneficent according to your way of thinking, which causes in those whom it infects unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and a germ which when it is grown becomes the greatest of all trees, the tree which is in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge, the tree whose fruit makes men become as gods, a tree locked up in the gardens of the Hesperides and there guarded by moat and wall and redoubtable beings, the fame of which has gone far and wide and which is better than the rumor of it.
Very well. Thirty-seven years ago, there where some who said the work we did is but half done. We have unlocked the shackles; now we will unlock the halls of learning and the freed man shall be made free of the republic of learning. We will found institutions of higher learning which he may enter. I fear me that many who have kept in touch with the events of the past few years, are now saying, condescendingly, those were good men, well-meaning men, but impracticable, and their hope has failed and that race must remain hewers of wood and drawers of water, their utmost possible to become farmers and mechanics. Nay, they were great men, far-seeing men.