July 7, 1876

Athens, Ohio


This morning I was aroused a little earlier than usual, by the singing of a bird under the chamber in which I slept and naturally desiring to use those precious moments, I thought what I should say to this class, and to this pleasant and intelligent audience.  I had no time to prepare an address, I merely thought I could possibly suggest some single idea possibly two ideas, to be carried away remembered as long as you shall live, and I selected two very every day, homelike, homely, simple subjects – Integrity of Character, and Decision of Character, and I thought that a few pleasant words added to his audience.  But when I sat here, I discovered that the first speaker, and the last speaker had stolen my best ideas of integrity and decision of character, for all that could be said and should be said in these few minutes was so well said, and so beautifully said by her who represents to the thought qualities which lend success to every single life.  [He referred to Mrs. J. Ella Boyd, the second female graduate of the Ohio University] yet I will repeat a part of it to you, who are now leaving this interesting period of life.


The four years which are to be remembered as long as you live, are perhaps the best, certainly the most interesting four years of life.  You pass out into a wider scene, into a wider life, at a period when there is, perhaps, more forgetfulness of the homely virtues, of that which merits success every where in life, than there should be.  Of all periods, perhaps, this is justly said to be an age of shams, of show and extravagance; an age paint, varnish and gilding, where the homely virtues of economy, industry and plain common honesty are forgotten, and the vices of shows and extravagance prevail alas too often.  But you wish to become just, and pure and wise; you wish to be, and not to seem to be.  I commend to you this homely proverb, somewhat added to and somewhat mangled, but I commend it to you; “Get and carry into life, not merely into ordinary transactions, not merely into common business, but make it a part of all you do in the whole circle of duty and effort and it is this:  Honesty is not only the best policy, but its own sufficient and very great reward, and I repeat you will find it to the end of life, not only the best policy, but its own sufficient and very great reward.  I will hand you these diplomas to distribute among yourselves.


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