May 20, 1880
Virginia Hall
Hampton, Virginia

I would be glad if it were in my power to speak to all who have had any interest in Hampton Institute, if I could express the feeling of every man and woman who has listened to what has passed this afternoon. But the current of gratitude and encouragement to Hampton Institute flows so strong today that it is hardly for me to add anything to it. I wish, therefore, simply to thank General Armstrong, the founder and principal of Hampton; these trustees, one of whom has just spoken in terms so fitting; the assistants of General Armstrong; these pupils so soon to go out and work among their people, and assure them of the gratitude, the satisfaction all good people feel in all here done.

Why, the question dealt with here has from the beginning puzzled our intensest thinkers; has from the beginning been the most difficult, most vital question before the nation: the question, how to deal with these various classes, these different populations which make up American society. This great territory of ours, with its vast diversity of soil and of climate seems almost to require this vast diversity of population. The main question is how to fuse them into one great, harmonious whole.

That question Hampton Institute is solving. It is by dealing with all as children of one great Father.

And we may thank all these gentlemen for what they have done and are doing. They are wiping out in this country, sectionalism and race prejudice; and these are the only two enemies America has any cause to fear.

We would not undertake to violate the laws of nature, we do not wish to change the purpose of God in making these differences of nature. We are willing to have these elements of our population separate as the fingers are, but we rejoice to see them united for every good work, for National defense, one, as the hand. And that good work is Hampton doing.