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Title: Some War-time Lessons - The Soldier's Standards of Conduct; The War As a Practical Test of American Scholarship; What Have We Learned?
Author: Keppel, Frederick P. (Frederick Paul), 1875-1943
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *





       *       *       *       *       *


The Soldier's Standards of Conduct
The War As a Practical Test of American Scholarship
What Have We Learned?



Third Assistant Secretary of War


New York
Columbia University Press

All rights reserved

Copyright, 1920
By Columbia University Press

Printed from type, January, 1920

Printed at





      OF CONDUCT                                            9

      SCHOLARSHIP                                          36

 III. WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?                                66



Perhaps the greatest laboratory experiment in human conduct in the
history of the world has been the development of our Army during the
past two years. Under the provisions of the Selective Service Law, this
Army has represented a cross section of American male humanity--even
more representative indeed than was intended; for in the efforts of the
Local Boards to send men who could best be spared, many found their way
into the ranks who were handicapped from the start by low mentality or
disease. What were the guiding forces which operated upon this body of
nearly four million men?

In the first place, our country entered the war with a great moral
purpose, untinged by any trace of national or individual selfishness.
We really have to go back to the Crusades to find the like. And, as
then, each man supplemented this great basal impulse with whatever was
to him the strongest incentive--religion, patriotism, pride of family or
state or regiment, the desire to excel in what all were attempting.

In the second place, thanks primarily to the vision and determination of
one man, the individual appeal to each soldier as to his personal share
in the great enterprise was upon the highest plane. We were fortunate in
having at the head of the War Department a man peculiarly sensitive to
community problems and with no small experience in their solution.
Through the centuries men had come to the belief that if their soldiers
were only valiant and disciplined in arms, it would not do to inquire
too curiously into their personal standards of conduct in other
matters--that a considerable wastage in military strength from
drunkenness and disease was inevitable. And as we all know, this wastage
has in the past sapped, not only the strength of the Army, but
afterwards the very life of the nation to which the soldier must sooner
or later return.

The Secretary of War and his lieutenants, chief among whom in this field
should be placed the Chairman of the Committee on Training Camp
Activities, Raymond B. Fosdick, approached this problem neither in the
fatalistic spirit that what has always been must continue to be, nor in
a spirit of what, for want of a better term, I may call doctrinaire
idealism. They faced the fact that among the hundreds of thousands of
young men who were to be called to the colors, there would be many whose
ears would be deaf to any abstract appeal, and many others to whom such
an appeal might be made under normal conditions, but who in fatigue or
the let-down following the strain of conflict, could not be depended
upon to stand in the hour of temptation. As a result the whole field of
preventive measures was thoroughly studied and vigorous treatment was
applied. The Army regulations as to prophylaxis and the introduction of
intoxicants into camps were strictly and honestly enforced. The Army saw
to it that state and local laws as to liquor and prostitution were
properly carried out, and if these were lacking, they were promptly
enacted. The so-called Zone Law was adopted for the purpose of placing
the immediate vicinity of camps under Federal control. In some cases
where the community showed signs of regarding the Army policy in this
regard as a _beau geste_ and nothing more, it was made to realize that
while the War Department could not compel the community to mend its
ways, it could and would move the camp in twenty-four hours to a more
wholesome environment. I am proud to say that it was necessary in only a
very few instances to bring forward this aspect of the situation, but
when it was necessary the Department spoke in no uncertain tone.

As a result of this general policy, in which the Navy shared, many a
wide-open town received a thorough house cleaning for the first time in
its career; in all between 120 and 140 red light districts were closed
and kept closed; and the underlying sordidness of many a smug
self-satisfied village was brought to light and remedied.

The men who came to the camps tainted with venereal disease or broken by
drink or morphine--and the number of these was great enough to shock our
national complacency (and incidentally to explode the national
assumption that the country is primarily the abode of virtue as the
city is of vice)--these men were salvaged by the tens of thousands and
turned into useful self-respecting soldiers and citizens.

The lesson of clean living was taught by the spoken word, by the moving
picture, by the printed page, by the doctor with a scientific
thoroughness and by the layman with a frankness and sometimes a
colloquialism which would for once have rendered Mrs. Grundy speechless.
As an instrument of virtue, the tract is, of course, of time-honored
usage, but the name of George Ade in the list of tract writers is a new
and significant one.

More important than all this, however, in my judgment, was the
realization by the Army of the great truth that the soldier--or any one
else for that matter--goes astray in only the rarest instances from
innate depravity. What he seeks primarily is relaxation and amusement.
And so wholesome relaxation and amusement were placed at his disposal to
take the place of the unwholesome. The whole nation rose to help in this
work of substituting the clean for the unclean. It poured its money by
the hundreds of millions into the coffers of the great welfare
societies, the Red Cross, The Young Men's Christian Association, Knights
of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, and later in recognition of its work
abroad, the Salvation Army. All of these vied with one another in a
rivalry which was sometimes embarrassing in its intensity. The American
Library Association supplied books and other reading matter, and the War
Camp Community Service made sure that, to the towns and villages
surrounding it, a cantonment presented an opportunity for service rather
than for exploitation. Not the least important factor in the superb
showing which our troops made in France was the spirit with which the
men and women of these same towns inspired the men from the training
camps whom they took into their homes and their hearts.

Within the fabric of the Army the chaplains were doing their share, as
were the athletic leaders and song leaders and dramatic coaches. They
were seconded by the officers of the line, most of whom, it should be
said, saw the military usefulness of the whole program from the first,
many of the experienced regulars having always done what they could with
the limited means at their command along the same lines. Other officers,
however, had to be shown--and were shown--the military importance of
the truth that the merry heart goes all the day, and the sad one tires
in a mile.

The work of planning and coördination was in the hands of the civilian
Commission on Training Camp Activities, of which Mr. Fosdick has been
from the first the Chairman. The work of this Commission has been
characterized from the outset by a courage and resourcefulness for which
no praise can be too high. The theatre for example has not always been
looked upon by the American people as a moral agency, but the Commission
saw its place in the scheme of things and no fewer than thirty-seven
great playhouses have been erected at the camps and the audiences have
run literally into the millions. Boxing likewise was encouraged, even
though some of the contests which resulted were not of the most gentle.
Cantonment towns were persuaded to open the "Movies" on Sunday, the only
day on which most soldiers could leave the Camp--the outcries of the
_unco guid_ to the contrary notwithstanding.

For more than a year the Commission and the welfare organizations were
the only organized forces in this general field, but since last summer
their work has been supplemented by the establishment within the Army
itself of a Morale Branch of the General Staff, in the formation of
which the Department was not too proud to take a leaf--perhaps one
should say a Blatt--from the Germans, who had already developed this
type of organization to a high degree, under the direct supervision of
General Ludendorff.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have spoken of the work of prevention, of the more important work of
substitution, and I now come to the most important of all--the spirit of
confidence which extended from top to bottom of the huge organization
that the great mass of our men would go straight for the sake of going
straight. We all instinctively couple the two words, "officer" and
"gentleman." In the great Army which is now being disbanded, its work
having been so gloriously done, we find a new and enlarged conception,
that of the soldier and gentleman. It was, I am certain, the preliminary
assumption that an American soldier was also an American gentleman in
all the fundamentals of that much-abused term, which was the great
factor in keeping down the number of those who proved the contrary to so
negligibly small a total.

A few figures from the official records will show what the result of
this all has been. In 1909, for instance, there were in the Army, in
round numbers, 5500 court-martial convictions of enlisted men, out of a
total of 75,000. For the fifteen months ending July 1, 1918, there were
11,500 convictions out of a total of 2,200,000 enlisted men, the
percentage in the twelve months of peace being 7.3 and in the fifteen
months of war, .53, about one-fourteenth as great. The significance of
these later figures cannot be appreciated without some knowledge of the
underlying circumstances. One case I remember was that of a man who got
drunk, spent his money and that of some fellow soldiers, and stayed
absent without leave to earn money enough to repay his fellow soldiers
and then returned to camp to take his medicine. What on the surface
appears to be the cowardly crime of desertion was, in several instances
of which I have personal knowledge, a misguided effort to get to the
front, through enlistment under another name in some branch of the
service which seemed to have an earlier prospect of getting over. In
France there were many cases of desertion, but nearly all were from the
rear to the front. The progressive success of the policy of keeping the
soldier from strong drink, by the way, stands out in the figures, which
show that early in the war one out of every twelve offenses charged
included drunkenness, but that this proportion dropped until the final
figures were less than one in each thirty offenses, this including
soldiers in France, where the soldier had to stand on his own feet
unprotected by prohibition laws.

The welfare program was, from the nature of the case, most effective
among the men of the National Army, where it was possible to take the
soldiers in hand from the first. If we analyze the court-martial
records, we find that the proportion of court-martials was distinctly
lowest in this group. The records as of June 30, 1918, show that the
number of court-martials among the Regular Army was a little less than
one per cent, to be accurate 8/10 of one per cent; in the National Guard
the proportion was about 9/10 of one per cent; and in the National Army
it was less than 2/10 of one per cent, the exact figure being .143 per
cent, one-fiftieth of the percentage ten years ago.

Another check on the efficiency of the program is found in the records
as to venereal disease in the Surgeon General's Office. It is hard to
get comparative figures because of constantly changing conditions, but
it has been shown beyond all doubt that the health conditions in the
Army have been far, far better than in the community at large. While the
latter are not so bad as the alarmists have implied, they are serious
enough in all conscience, when in no fewer than seventeen of the states,
sixty or more of every thousand men who appeared at the mobilization
camps were found to be infected. Taking a typical month before the
signing of the armistice, we find that the proportion of cases coming to
the camps from the civil community was fifteen times as great as the
proportion among our soldiers in France, even including the soldiers in
the port towns, where most of our difficulties there were found. The
comparison with the records of the cantonments in this country is even
more striking.

       *       *       *       *       *

As to the purely religious appeal and its influence on the men it is
hard to speak with any degree of certainty. A visiting British general
in Washington, shortly after our entry into the war, was asked as to
conditions in England, and is reported to have replied, "Upon my soul,
if you ask me, I should say that with us the dear old Church has rather
missed the bus." In this country the organized religious forces have by
no means missed the bus, but if we are honest with ourselves we must
face the fact that since the last great national test, the Civil War,
other appeals to higher standards of conduct have both actually and
relatively been tremendously strengthened, and our religious leaders
must address themselves, in the light of experience during these past
two years, to a clearer understanding of these other forces and to a
closer coöperation with them. We cannot to-day close our eyes to the
truth that many of our finest men played their splendid parts quite
untouched by a religious motive or appeal--or at least doctrinal appeal;
one hesitates to call their attitude a non-religious one. It must always
be remembered, however, that their standards, no matter how unconscious
they may have been of the fact, were fundamentally based upon the
development of a Christian civilization.

If thus far I may have seemed to measure soldier conduct by two
standards only, by his relation to drink and to women, it is because the
results of the policy of the Army in these two matters are measurable,
the records are outstanding. The Army and its experience however would
furnish but a poor guide to the Churches and the other civilian forces
for righteousness if its lessons were limited to the negative virtues,
important as they are, of sobriety and continence.

The real contribution, what we have learned as to the positive virtues,
is harder to describe and impossible to measure, but the lessons are
worth looking for and may be learned from the letters and from the lips
of our men. Perhaps I can best indicate what the men themselves regard
as vital by telling the experience of a friend who started one of the
customary practical talks before an audience of our men behind the lines
in France. His homily didn't seem to be "getting across" and he was
inspired to ascertain just what to their minds were the most serious
offenses. He asked each man to write down what he regarded as the three
very worst faults against which a soldier should be on his guard. When
the answers were collected, one word appeared on practically every slip
of paper, _cowardice_; the second was not so nearly unanimous, but
appears on a strong majority of the papers, _selfishness_; and the third
was evidently _conceitedness_, though the defect was worded in
different ways, as _big head_, _crust_, and the like.

In other words, the virtues which the soldier most admires and regarding
which he had evidently learned the most valuable lessons, are courage,
unselfishness or coöperativeness, and modesty.

The record of our soldiers has proved beyond a doubt that once you get
men into groups with a common and a worth-while purpose, courage--both
the reckless courage that comes by instinct and that higher type, the
courage of the man who recognizes his danger--can no longer be assumed
to be a rare virtue. It is a very common virtue. Cowardice is infinitely
rarer. The citations and the casualty records, for instance, have
completely rehabilitated the Jew as a fighting man, and the faithful
need no longer go back to Josephus for their war legends.

Not all the courage and fortitude was shown on the field of battle. We
must not forget that last fall we suffered from by far the most serious
epidemic in the history of America, and, in the dark days in our
training camps, opportunities were offered, and gladly accepted, for a
display of heroism and devotion of the highest type.

In the realm of fortitude, if not of physical courage, the war certainly
tapped new sources of determination and provided a kind of stimulus
which would keep a man to whom no personal glory or conspicuousness
could possibly come, some poor devil sentenced to a swivel chair,
laboring in that same chair day and night for the purpose of making some
single improvement in nut or bolt, or perhaps filing card. Given the
impetus of a great common purpose, our possibilities for industry are

One thing that mankind should have learned long since is that, broadly
speaking, selfishness as a guiding motive is essentially negative--the
absence of something better--the man is a rare exception who does not
lose himself and his self-interest in the conception or the ambition of
the group, the squad or battalion or regiment, the division, the army or
the nation. An interesting side-light upon this is the fact that
two-thirds of the men who get into trouble in the Army, or at any rate
who get into sufficiently serious trouble to land them in Fort
Leavenworth, are markedly of the ego-centric type; in other words, are
men for whom the group cannot overcome the individual bias.

That our soldiers as a whole possess the virtue of modesty, though it is
often overlaid by a veneer of innocent swagger, is beyond dispute, as
any one who has had to do with them can testify. And underlying
and inspiring their whole conduct have been the qualities of
whole-souledness and determination and an indomitable cheerfulness.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must learn the lessons which the soldiers have to teach us in the
large just as we must grasp their accomplishments in the large. There is
a morning after for nations as well as for individuals, and we seem just
now to be in danger of losing our conception of the greatness of the
enterprise, and its essential soundness, through the intrusion of the
instances, relatively very few, where things did not go right; where
human nature did not reach the heights, or having reached them, failed
to remain upon them.

It has, I think, been definitely proved that the mixing up of the
so-called welfare work with the special function of the clergymen or
other religious adviser, in order that the latter may be made more
palatable to the soldier, has an effect exactly the reverse of what was
intended. The policy of interpolating a prayer meeting, or a
heart-to-heart talk, between the third and fourth reels of the moving
picture play, and I grieve to say that such a policy was actually
followed for a while, is of course a fantastic example, but it shows
exactly how we ought not to do it.

The soldiers are peculiarly sensitive to any feeling that what is done
for them is done for some other purpose than the ostensible one,
entirely apart from how worthy such other purpose may be. Let me quote
from a letter written by an officer of the Army who had been visiting a
number of camps:

"The Camp Library to my mind fulfills one of the most vital needs of the
camp. It is a place where our men can get relaxation and mental
stimulus, and where they can feel at ease without the 'God-bless-you'
atmosphere of the other welfare organizations."... "It is the one place
in camp where you can go and have a chance to meditate or read in peace
and quiet without a piano jangling in your ears or the imminent
possibility of a prayer meeting."

The chaplain or the lay religious worker to whom a man instinctively
turned at the moment when he needed spiritual help was the one whom he
had learned to respect for courage and devotion and dignity, the man who
had helped to bury his dead friend, to comfort and amuse his wounded
friend, and to advise his misguided friend in the guard-house; not the
one whose ill-timed ministrations he had learned to avoid. I understand
that the story of the chaplain who entirely forgot that he was to appear
at a review for the purpose of receiving a medal and delayed the entire
proceedings while he was sought for and found in his customary post in
the connecting trench, is absolutely authentic.

The man who could forget his denomination in his devotion to the great
common mission was the man whom the soldier learned to love and to trust
and who could do the most in the day of battle. The most popular tales
among the chaplains are the tales of unorthodoxy: The Catholic priest
who baptized a group of his men before action in a shell hole with water
which was not only unblessed, but I fear unsanitary, and who simply
referred to Philip and the Eunuch when reproved; the Methodist and
Baptist, and I think the Episcopalian, who in the absence of their
Presbyterian colleague, solemnly and quite illegally received a
youngster into the Presbyterian fold before he went overseas, and
confessed the next morning to the Presbyterian Board; the Wesleyan
chaplain in the British Army who carried a crucifix to comfort the dying
Catholics on the battlefield when no priest of their faith was near, and
who administered the last rites to them as best he could. There are
hundreds of such stories.

The appeal of any denomination as such, or of the Y, or the
corresponding societies of other faiths, as such, was always mistaken.
It was the united appeal of all the doers of good deeds which counted.
If we never knew before, we know now the truth of the fable of the
bundle of fagots. Personally, I believe the united drive for welfare
work last fall, during which Protestant, Catholic and Jew, and men of no
formal religion whatever, appealed from the same platform for the same
great purpose, was an event of the greatest importance in our nation,
and it will go ill with us if we forget the lesson that it has to teach.

The appeal must be not only disinterested, but it must be simple and
direct. This, and the careful selection of its personnel, had much, if
not most, to do with the extraordinary success of the Salvation Army.
There are times in a soldier's life when the sewing on of a button at
some vital spot will do more to "get" him than anything else in the

Out of this spirit of general helpfulness, there were developed at
almost every point the most beautiful and sympathetic adjustments to
immediate conditions. For example, take the plan of showing moving
pictures upon the ceilings of hospital wards, so that the very ill may
enjoy them without the strain even of raising their heads. This small
piece of thoughtfulness to me represents the standard of thinking a
problem through which we will have to maintain if we are to hold what we
have gained, and what we have gained includes, or should include, a
realization that active and willing loving-kindness furnishes the
keenest of all pleasures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far I have spoken mainly of the work of preparation in the United
States. Overseas our soldiers and their officers found new conditions
and were forced to make new adjustments. We no longer could control the
laws and ordinances, and we found different standards of conduct--not
necessarily lower standards, but different standards. We could no longer
enforce prohibition for example, but we did maintain a high average of
temperance. We showed our allies, some of whom I may say were honestly
sceptical on the subject, that with our soldiers continence was the
rule, and not the exception. When I was in France last year, I asked
those who were in a position to know upon this point and was told that,
comparatively speaking, very, very few of our men lowered in France the
standards of conduct which they held when they came into the Army, that
many more greatly improved those standards, either because of the
lessons they had learned in our training camps, or because of the
wholesome companionship of the women workers with whom they were daily
brought in contact, or because, and this was probably the most potent
factor of all, they were so desperately keen to get into the fighting
line that they were taking no chances of being put out of commission
beforehand. Their morality was the morality of the team in training for
the big game, and it kept tens of thousands of boys straight. Indeed,
until November 11, disciplinary problems may be said to have been
practically non-existent among combat troops and almost negligible among
the others. After the armistice was signed, there was a let-down, this
being after all a very human body of young men, and the first remedy
tried by some of the old-time regulars did not help a bit. This was to
"give 'em plenty of drill and make 'em so tired they won't have energy
to get into mischief," but as one returning artillery officer pointed
out to me, when a battery a month before has fired 50,000 rounds of
high-explosive at the Boche, and worked its guns over craters and
through thickets, a drill with dummy ammunition on a parade ground is
almost a justification for mutiny. Wiser counsel soon prevailed and the
welfare work, which had slumped with the rest, was again brought up to
concert pitch. It was for the first time in France, properly coördinated
under Army control. The misfits and the workers who had worn themselves
out were returned to this country and their places taken by fresh blood.
I remember in this connection a paragraph tucked in the middle of the
uncompromising officialdom of the daily departmental cable: "Send over
plenty of welfare workers and remember the best men you can send are the

Let me take this chance to say a word about the criticisms we have been
hearing of this welfare work abroad. In the first place, the success of
the work in this country among the men in training set up an expectation
which it was humanly impossible to meet under the conditions overseas;
in other words, the men who went over assumed standards as to the
minimum amount of attention which it was their right to expect, the like
of which had never been dreamed in the history of mankind. As a matter
of fact, and taken as a whole, the treatment which they received was
admirable and the comparatively few who now doubt the truth of this
statement will come to realize it as time goes on. They will see that
the misfits, the over-wrought, stood out in their minds like men out of
alignment at parade, that they simply did not notice the thousands of
men and women whose work for them was all that their own mothers could
have asked.

The following official cablegram records the state of educational,
recreation and welfare work at the end of April, 1919.

"Educational activities: Roughly there are 209,000 students embraced in
this scheme. Ten thousand are at A.E.F. University at Beaune, some 7,000
are attending French universities. 3,000 attending British. There are
roughly 130,000 men at Post Schools, which correspond to our elementary
schools in United States. 55,000 are attending the Divisional
Educational Schools, which correspond to our High schools. In addition
there are approximately 58,000 men in specialized vocational schools
where they have full shop facilities of A.E.F.

"Athletic activities: Athletic activities increasing daily in scope and
popularity. Figures for February show 6,500,000 individual participants
in games. In addition to mass athletics, unit championships are being
played in football, basketball, soccer, boxing, tennis, swimming, tug of
war, golf, track and field.

"Entertainment activities: Reports of entertainment officers show
monthly attendance for A.E.F. of between eight and ten million. Moving
pictures, professional talent from United States and particularly
soldier shows being utilized in all parts of army and have done much to
take care of leisure hours of troops. Horse shows have been held in
nearly every division of A.E.F. and have proved very popular. Amount of
all this work now being carried on is little short of stupendous."

The following paragraphs from a personal letter are particularly
significant as coming from an officer of the regular army, who when he
was in command of one of the cantonments in the United States was
genuinely alarmed lest the War Department had not lost its sense of
proportion, and was creating parlor ornaments instead of fighting men:

"I served in the Army of Occupation in the Philippines and in China
after the Boxer campaign, and I want to tell you that the discipline and
_ésprit de corps_ of these troops in Germany is incomparably better than
anything I saw there.

"I think nothing has so contributed to this result as the welfare work
and the educational work undertaken. We have every reason to be proud of
the fact that we had people in command of the army who had the vision to
see what result this work would bring.

"I took command of the --th Division in the Army of Occupation in
December, and up until the present time I never worked with a happier or
more contented lot of men. Of course they all want to go home, and we
wouldn't have much use for them if they didn't, but an intensified
military course of training in the morning, schools and athletics in the
afternoon, and study and entertainment in the evening have made their
days so full that they have been perfectly contented to stay until their
boat comes in June.

"This has been the experience of all the divisions up here in Germany,
and their enthusiasm, I fear, when they get home, may be taken for

       *       *       *       *       *

The War Department has learned so much in this great laboratory
experiment in human conduct that the impious wish sometimes arises in
one's mind that we might promptly try it all over again for the chance
of profiting by our mistakes. Thank God we can't do that, but in our
daily contact with these same men restored to their communities we can
to a certain degree carry on the work, and in so doing we can learn much
from the successes and failures of the Army.

In planning for the immediate future, there are some things which we
mustn't forget. In the first place, we mustn't expect these young men
(or any humans for that matter) to be capable of remaining at concert
pitch indefinitely.

For a while, in dealing with the soldier who has returned from overseas,
real ingenuity will be required to make much impression upon his mind.
Not only will ordinary life seem tame but, frankly, he is likely to have
been overhandled and overwelfared. If, however, we have erred in this
regard, it has been on the right side.

May I venture still another suggestion, and that is to be careful and
considerate of the soldier who, despite his earnest desire, failed to
get across, and for the matter of that, of the young man who didn't get
into the Army at all. The morale of these two groups will need our
particular care.

In closing, however, we should not end upon a note of warning, but
rather upon one of exultation; for the war has taught us, if it has
taught nothing else, that, given a great cause and a cross-section of
our heterogeneous American population, the resulting revelation of the
power of human endurance, human courage and human accomplishment comes
pretty near to proving objectively the divinity of man.


[Footnote 1: An address delivered at the one hundredth anniversary of
the General Theological Seminary, New York, April 30, 1919.]


It is a difficult task to attempt to define the American scholar of
to-day. If any of you doubt it, let him try it as I have tried.
Scholarship, like many another broad term, has no sharply marked edges.
It is hard to define anything that lacks definiteness; and, after all,
the task is relatively profitless, because we all of us recognize what
is at the center of the concept. I think we all recognize that the
scholar is an expert in some particular field or fields; but he is more
than the expert as such, in that he knows enough of other matters to see
his particular specialty in its relation to things in general. He must,
to this degree at least, be a philosopher. This very general conception
of scholarship is fairly constant, but the fields which the conception
includes are broadening day by day and almost hour by hour. We cannot
to-day limit scholarship to the polite branches which were all that it
embodied when this Society was founded or even when this Chapter was
established. The scholar of the old-fashioned type must now accept as
his fellow the man who has helped to flatten the trajectory of the
16-inch shell, or to control the birth rate of the cootie. Later on I
shall suggest one other element which, in the light of the test which
American scholarship has undergone in the past two years, it seems to me
should now be included in our idea of the typical American scholar.

We Americans are proud of being called a nation of inventors; and most
of us have made, or almost made, private discoveries of an inventional
nature which, for some reason, have never come to fruition. The
scientific boards in Washington during the war received more than sixty
thousand suggestions in some mechanical field; and I am told by those
who ought to know that of all these not more than five of those coming
from untrained minds were of any practical value. Even from the trained
minds there came, I am told, no fundamental discovery in science as a
direct result of the war conditions. Suggestions of improvements in
detail and valuable suggestions there were in plenty, new applications
of known principles, but application of a fundamentally new idea, no.
That is only to say what we already know, that discovery is not made to
order. In each case the idea had already been born in the mind of some
intellectual pioneer and worked out by him, and some man who had the
idea in the front of his mind was at hand to apply it to the new
condition. And that means, I think, that if we met the test, we met it
with our scholars.

When the test came, certain fields of scholarship naturally afforded a
better chance for immediate service than others. The chemist, for
example, had a better chance a thousand-fold than the archæologist. It
is extraordinary, however, how many of the gifts which burned bright on
the national altar came from men with some out-of-the-way specialty.
Take archæology itself, if you will. The best trench helmet developed
during the war was designed by the expert in armor from our own academic
fellowship. I am told that a very important element in the length of
time which it took to control the submarine menace was the fact that
when war broke out the science of oceanography was almost wholly in the
hands of the Germans. When the world's supply of cocoanut husks was
taken up for gas masks and we still needed charcoal, we had to turn for
additional sources to the tropical botanist, who might have been
expected to remain reasonably undisturbed. It remained for a scholar in
perhaps the purest branch of pure science, astronomy, to recognize the
well known fact that it is the shape of the tail of any and every moving
object, motor car or boat or what you will, and not the shape of the
head, which is the factor of chief importance in design, and to apply
this recognition to artillery problems. The re-designing of our
artillery shells under the direction of this astronomer added miles to
their range. Another astronomer applied his experience in studying the
movement of comets to solving certain problems of long-range artillery
fire where the projectile in its flight rises into the circumambient

In proving the case for the American scholar, as I think we can prove
it, we should not be beguiled into the pleasant task of recording the
deeds of scholars and gentlemen when the deeds were those of the gallant
gentleman rather than of the scholar _per se_. We have one here in our
own academic family whose lieutenant's bars I should be as proud to wear
as the stars of any of our generals. Nor need we, I think, cite the
instances where the rigorous training of the scholar clearly laid the
foundation for great accomplishment in some general field of
administration. The man whom we can thank perhaps more than any other
for the brilliant conduct of our war finance was seventeen years ago
editor-in-chief of the _Columbia Law Review_. We may well turn with
pride, but we don't need him to prove our point, to the scholar of this
university, formerly president of this Chapter, who, from his own
talents and experience and his alert sense of scholarship in others, has
earned the place which he now holds as educational director of the
largest university in the world, the A.E.F. University at Beaune.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our case rests, as I say, upon the direct applications of scholarship,
and not only upon their quality, but on their range. A single division
of the National Research Council, in its report for 1918, showed work of
national significance by the scholars in physics, mathematics, and
allied fields toward the solution of no fewer than sixty-eight
different problems, every one of which needed for its solution men with
training and knowledge and vision. At the outset, who among us had the
slightest conception of the complexity of the adaptations to warfare of
what was known to modern scholarship? We knew that the war was mounting
into the air, but who had any realization of the adjustments which this
involved? Fifteen fundamental problems based on pure physics promptly
arose with reference to instruments for airplane operation. For example,
at night and in the clouds, the aviator must have before his eyes a dial
which will indicate the slightest deviation from his course. Seven
problems had to do with airplane photography. As the art of camouflage
advanced, for instance, color filters had to be devised for its
detection from above. Seven additional problems had to do with factors
of construction and maintenance, as fuel efficiency. Nine others
affected ballooning; and the balloon, as the war developed, came to be
of greater and greater importance. Eleven studies were in signalling:
one, for example, a device for secret daylight signalling, with a range
of five miles or more. And please remember that all these were the task
of one branch of one organization within the field of pure science. By
common consent, the dullest branch of physics was held to be acoustics,
but since 1914 the whole question of sound-ranging has been in the hands
of experts in acoustics. A device developed by American physicists gave
our men nineteen seconds in which to take cover from cannon fired four
miles away. The most brilliant work in this field was that of a former
student of the Columbia School of Mines.

If I were to pick out one field in which the scholarly attitude has been
most brilliantly rewarded, it is that of medicine. If our army surgeons
and sanitarians had been confined to the practical family doctors, who
cannot be bothered with all this new-fangled stuff, our men would have
died like flies from disease, as they did in the Spanish-American War.
It was the laboratory man, the theorist, the highbrow if you like, who
made our health record a matter of national pride and congratulation. It
was the knowledge of a scholar, coupled with his instinctive
understanding of the human heart--neither could have accomplished the
purpose alone--which sent hundreds of shell-shocks, as they came to be
called (people used to call the condition by an uglier, if not a
shorter, term) back into the lines with self-respect and nerve renewed.

To turn to another field, it was a real scholar, even if he were also a
dean, who, in spite of the best efforts of his practical associates to
deter him, brought order out of chaos in the most important of our war
boards through the collection and skillful presentation of statistical

In many cases it was the scholar whom we must thank for the pointing out
of the obvious. The early drafts rejected thousands of excellent
potential soldiers because our existing height regulations were drawn
for men of the northern European races; and the minimum height limit was
well within the normal variation of the men of southern European
ancestry, which has been so large an element in our recent immigration.
Similarly, men of science have pointed out that the length of the
marching step depends not alone on the length of the legs, but even more
on the width of the hips, a simple fact which is of real military
significance. The scholars in the Forest Products laboratories knew how
to make boxes that would not break and spill their contents on the
wharves at Hoboken or St. Nazaire, and, equally important, they knew
how to educate the quartermasters to use them.

The fact that in many fields we reached the limits of available
man-power meant a wonderful stimulation to the study of certain problems
affecting human welfare. Take for example the physiological aspects of
industrial fatigue. In this field an excellent theoretical start had
been made before the war, but the appeal was limited to those interested
in the individual worker. With the war, however, and the shortage of
labor, came a new and, I fear, a more potent appeal--the interest in the
product and its prompt production. The worker who collapsed could not be
replaced. Long hours or unsanitary surroundings meant spoiled material
and broken-down machinery and resultant delay. And when there was a
scholar at hand to show why this was so, you may be sure he had his day
in court.

The work of the scholar has not wholly been in getting things done.
Perhaps an equally important side was in keeping impossible or
unprofitable things from being attempted. When time was of the very
essence of the whole program, the man who could say "No" and prove the
validity of his objection, performed a positive work of great value.
One of our associates at Columbia had a leading share in devising tests
for candidates for the flying school, which, by rejecting the unfit at
the outset, saved many lives from the time of their adoption and many,
many thousands of dollars; for the training of a flyer who cannot be
used when the time comes is a very costly piece of national extravagance
in both money and men.

Our scholars did not confine their activities to the battle of
Washington. Not only as engineers and doctors, but as geologists and
geographers, as meteorologists and sanitarians, they went with the
troops to the front, and their counsel as to actual military operations
was welcomed and followed. One of them, a bachelor and doctor of this
University, died in the service in France. The scholar, like the
soldier, stood ready to step forward to fill the gap in the ranks as he
saw it, regardless of whether something more dignified might be found
for him to do. Our own Barnard, Professor of Education, took what he was
pleased to call his vacation in applying his scholarship to organizing
an educational program for the wounded men in our hospitals, as a
therapeutic measure. Being a scholar and not merely an expert, he saw
the broad human aspect of his specialty; that the first thing to do with
the man who is blinded, or otherwise maimed, is to make him realize that
it is worth while to get well; that he can have a life which is worth
living; that if his old job is no longer possible, there are others for
which he can be trained. One of America's most distinguished
philosophical chemists settled down to the humble but very essential
problem of making mixed flours rise and bake with a crust--and solved
it. The war services of a past President of this Chapter, now, alas, no
longer with us, and those of our present President have been as useful
as they have been inconspicuous.

The need for the scholar was not only qualitative, but quantitative. But
for the general distribution of chemical knowledge in France and
England, and the presence of men capable of promptly applying that
knowledge to combat the gas attacks launched by the Germans, the war
would have been lost before we could possibly have rendered the
slightest assistance; and on our side of the Atlantic when the armistice
was signed, there were two thousand trained chemists engaged in the
problems of gas warfare alone. Our country, in a word, needed not only
to have some men with the requisite training, but men enough to meet
simultaneously many needs in many fields, and these men were drawn in
large measure from our academic faculties. While one must not press the
identity between the scholar and the professor too hard--for a number of
reasons--the fact remains that the teaching profession provided the main
reservoir from which the country drew. One of my friends in the Chemical
Warfare Service has summarized the relation between the academic scholar
and that branch of the army activity. Both chiefs of the Chemical
Service Station were college professors, one of them a member of this
Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Of the fourteen heads of the Research
Division, eight were college professors. It was the college professors
who made fundamental improvements in gas masks on the one hand, and who
devised new gases to test the German masks on the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

As a nation, we did not realize at the outset, as Germany did, the
importance of the man who knows, and of knowing who he is and where he
is; and here, perhaps, lay our most fundamental unpreparedness. What
this cost us may be judged from a single instance. A code message from
Germany directing the dismantling of the German ships lying in our ports
was intercepted. If we had known that there was a professor of English
in the University of Chicago who, in the pursuit of his medieval
researches, had developed the power of reading ciphers almost at sight,
that cable from Germany could have been promptly deciphered, we could
have forestalled the sabotage, and something like six months in the use
of these ships for the transport of our troops and munitions could have
been gained.

The job of getting the man who knew into the right niche was not an easy
one. The scholars could not all be spared; for, after all, education and
research are essential industries, and, fortunately for our institutions
of learning, for our reviews and scientific agencies, and fortunately
for the country as a whole, all of our scholars did not rush immediately
into government work. The less thrilling task of keeping the lamps
burning in our lighthouses was never more important than during the
stormy days which we have just gone through. Furthermore, the scholar is
a modest person, though he has his human vanities, as we all know who
have seen our colleagues in uniform; but usually some one had to know
about him and invite him to his place, a very sharp contrast to the
business men and lawyers who came down to Washington by the trainload to
impress us with their capacity to do any job which involved a commission
of properly high degree.

In general, I should say that the individuals in the universities met
the test better than the institutions themselves. The latter did not, it
seems to me, as institutions, grasp the situation. Very few studied the
question of the assignment of their specialists as a problem in
conservation as well as in publicity; and as far as the use of their
facilities in the training of soldiers and sailors is concerned, the War
Department and the Navy Department had literally to teach them how to
meet the war conditions. Such help as came from organized bodies of
scholars came rather from the learned societies than from the academic

Then there was a further difficulty, particularly among the younger men,
though not wholly among them. The expert's job, and hence inclusively
the scholar's job, is relatively safe so far as the immediate risk of
death is concerned, though not the risk of shortening life through
overwork. One Columbia man, well over the draft age, told me frankly
that he would gladly give up an important public office he held for the
privilege of fighting with his hands, but he could not be tempted by an
opportunity to fight with his head. Through this same impulse many and
many a man attempted to conceal his special knowledge in order that he
might fight in the line. The Army Committee on Classification of
Personnel, which was in itself a beautiful example of scholarship in
practical application, was able, however, in most instances to pluck out
the expert from the line and set him, whether he was willing or not, at
the task for which he was particularly adapted and particularly needed.

       *       *       *       *       *

What, from the point of view of the non-scholar, can be said as to the
general usefulness of the men and women (for the women did their share)
who came forward or were brought forward to take this trial by fire on
behalf of American scholarship? First of all, the scholar must be a real
scholar; he must have the natural ability and the long and rigorous
training necessary for accurate observation, and observation of the kind
which, if I may be forgiven a most unscholarly metaphor, includes the
ability to distinguish the blue chips from the white; his deductions
must be relentless, and his inductions must be luminous. That is asking
a good deal, and it would be enough if his dealings were to be with
other scholars or with scholars in the making. The papers of a leisurely
recluse can be dug out by others from the even more deliberately
published proceedings of learned societies, even as the author has dug
out those of his predecessors, and ultimately the practical application
of his discoveries will be made. In national emergency, however, this
process will not suffice. The scholar must descend from his tower; he
must, if he is to serve effectively, learn to think to order and to do
it rapidly, to deal with all sorts and conditions of men; he must bear
with their amazing ignorances and profit by their equally amazing
knowledge of things of which he is ignorant. He must know the art of
team play. The war has brought out a new type of scholarship, or at any
rate has developed it to such an extent that its implications are new,
and that is the unselfish coöperation of experts to meet a given and
usually an immediately pressing need. The development of the Liberty
motor furnishes a good example of the results of such coöperative
effort. It seems to me that the most important single lesson which our
scholars can learn from the experience of the two past years is the
importance of this team play in scholarship, and not only team play with
other scholars, but team play with those who have the equally valuable
and perhaps even rarer gift of getting things done, who perhaps deserve
the title of scholars in the control of time and space. The scholars who
made good were those who had had not only the training and temperament
for research, but the training and temperament for working with other
people. The scholarship of the man who from self-centeredness or from a
mistaken absorption in his specialty lacked the art of dealing with his
fellow men was likely to prove a sterile scholarship, and in most cases
a useless scholarship in the day of national need.

One of the most dramatic things about the war was the speeding up of
supply and transport under the strong hand of the man who had brought
the Panama Canal to completion. General Goethals was no administrative
theorist. He was willing to try anything and anybody once, but he was
prompt in rejecting what did not promptly accomplish his purpose. An
engineer of General Goethals' distinction can be regarded as a scholar
in his particular field; but the point I want to make is that during his
service as Quartermaster-General, when officers of the regular army and
over-night majors, as they were called, presidents of manufacturing
plants, bankers and lawyers, were passing in what seemed to be an almost
unbroken procession through his office, he retained just two men in his
inner circle from first to last, and both were academic persons. Herbert
Hoover surrounded himself with scholars, entomologists, statisticians
and public health men. He did not always use them for their specialties,
but he evidently liked the type. The great welfare societies did the
same, and the list of academic men whom they used makes an impressive

These instances are typical of a very general success among scholars in
coöperating effectively and helpfully with eminently practical men. This
may be because the scholar has been trained in a form of competition
which the so-called practical man lacked. He is used to having his work
wiped out by some discovery of a rival, and having to begin afresh. He
is used to a checking of his work by his fellows which, if of a
different nature, is no less relentless than the war-time check in the
toll of human lives. The man of high reputation in business often failed
because he had learned to measure success and his own competence only in
terms of dividends, and in the new test he found his measuring-rod worse
than useless.

Our scholars of the coöperative type not only pursued their researches,
but they got their military associates into the habit of thinking in
terms of scholarship. One of their most useful accomplishments,
initiated by a Doctor of Philosophy of this University, was the
organization of Thursday evening conferences for the discussion of the
new scientific and technical problems facing the Army and Navy. This
furnished a nucleus for the exchange of ideas between the different
research groups, both here and abroad; for scholarship was mobilized and
utilized in France, England, and Italy, as well as here, and our Allies
laid their scientific discoveries before us with the greatest loyalty.
At these conferences their reports were discussed and digested and
applied, instead of being pigeon-holed at the War College, as I fear
might have been otherwise the case. It was as a result of one of these
conferences that a member of this Chapter, acting on a hint which came
from a French report, was largely instrumental in developing a method of
submarine detection through sound-waves of a particular type, which,
though it came too late to be of service in the war, may serve in peace
to relieve the greatest terror of the mariner, the danger of collision
in darkness or fog with sister vessel or iceberg or derelict. A potent
factor in breaking down the barriers and delays of departmental
jealousies and bureaucratic tradition all along the line was the
free-masonry of the company of scholars in Washington.

It must not be forgotten that our scholar in war worked under two
powerful stimuli, neither of them operative under ordinary conditions.
Although he was out of his accustomed setting, working with strange
people and at strange tasks, nevertheless the realization of the
national need and the joy of feeling an identification with the forces
facing the adversary tended to produce that fine frenzy which enables a
man to do better than he knows how. Then, for the first time in history,
the scholar had unlimited funds. It is an interesting subject for
speculation as to how he can ever go back to the limits of academic
appropriations. It is to be feared that in many cases he will not, but
will turn to industrial enterprises instead. If, however, there was an
unlimited supply of funds, there was a corresponding deficiency in time,
and the scholar who could not speed up to meet the new conditions had
little chance to make his mark. The men who failed in war because they
could not grasp the significance of the time factor may, however, still
be eminently useful in peace. On the other hand, the training which some
of our scholars received in meeting another war-time condition is likely
to have an important influence upon the relation of scholarship to
industry. Many a scholar found for the first time that to meet a given
condition a beautiful laboratory solution may be no solution at all,
that the answer, to be effective, must meet the peculiar condition of
quantity production.

The merit of the Liberty engine, of which I have already spoken, lies
not alone in the excellence of its design, admirable as that is, but in
the fact that it is so constructed that we could produce fifteen hundred
of them in a single week. Or, to take another example, in 1914 we made
all together eighteen hundred field glasses in this country. Last
winter, thanks to the coöperation of the scholars in the chemistry of
glass and in the field of optics on the one hand, and of the experts in
quantity production on the other, we were making thirty-five hundred
pairs of field glasses each week. There are many other adaptations of
scholarship to industry that are awaiting similar practical solutions.
One of our most distinguished scholars in physics has said publicly that
the day is past when one can defend any distinction between pure and
applied science. One might as well try to distinguish between pure and
applied virtue.

I said at the outset that I would venture later on an enlargement of the
conception of the American scholar, in the light of what the past two
years have made so clear. The scholar himself as well as those of us who
are not scholars, needs, I think, to get a somewhat broader conception
of the term; to develop it from its present popular connotation so that
the attributes which come to one's mind will no longer be the static and
selfish, but rather the dynamic and social. Emerson, in his essay on the
American Scholar, seems to have some prophetic glimpse of this broader
conception. He says, for example, that "action is with the scholar
subordinate, but it is essential; that without it, he is not yet man;
that the true scholar grudges every opportunity of action passed by, as
a loss of power"; and elsewhere, "that a great soul will be strong to
live, as well as strong to think." The old idea of the scholar was the
recluse, the individual; the new, it seems to me, should be one of a
company of builders, each bringing to the common task, for the general
welfare, his training and craft, his knowledge and ideas, to combine
them with the gifts which his fellows are bringing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far almost all my modern instances have been taken from the realms
of natural science. I need not remind you, however, that although
science has tremendously broadened the range of scholarship,
nevertheless the scholarship which is a practical asset is not and never
will be limited to natural science. The record of the past two years has
many an example of the essentially important work of scholars in other
fields. The records are not so clear-cut, the results are perhaps more
often negative; but the work was done and it counted. In the field of
public information our American scholars in the political sciences did
excellent work under the direction of a Doctor of Philosophy of this
University, and their record for fairness and sanity makes an enviable
contrast with the pathetic propaganda of the German intellectuals.
Similarly, the work of our Columbia scholars of the Legislative Drafting
Bureau proved of great value in formulating and, perhaps more important,
in discouraging legislation.

In general, however, I think we ought to face the fact squarely that our
scholarship in man's relations with his fellow men, in his understanding
of himself and his fellows as contrasted with his mastery of physical
things, cannot claim so clear-cut a decision. Even in science we should
not set too great store by ourselves. Professor, late Colonel, Millikan
writes: "The contribution of the United States in research and
development lines was less, far less in proportion to our resources and
population, than that of England or France, and this in spite of the far
heavier strain under which they were laboring." And yet, with us,
science was better mobilized, better equipped, and can make a better
showing than the humanities. Part of this can be readily explained by
the statement that preparation for war is after all engineering on a
huge scale. But we must not prove too much if we are to profit by the
lesson. For example, the war found us utterly unprepared in
foreign-language knowledge; and we are still unprepared. How many real
Americans, I don't mean recent immigrants, but men and women with our
traditions and our point of view, can speak Russian? How many can speak
the languages of the Near East or Far East?

Excellent work has been done by individual philosophers, economists, and
sociologists in labor questions, in welfare work, on the war-time trade
and industrial boards; but as a whole our scholars in these fields did
not dominate the situation as did the men of science in theirs. Of
course, their task was infinitely harder. For one thing, though we may
be ready to confess our ignorance of calculus or colloidal chemistry or
thermo-dynamics, we all believe in the validity of our off-hand
judgments in politics and morals, and indeed in all the springs of human
conduct. Yet when all allowances are made, the fact remains that there
is a scholarship in these matters and we have American scholars in them,
but that with distinguished exceptions these professionals permitted the
man in the street or the man in the editor's chair, or in Congress, or
in the Cabinet, to proclaim his amateur pronouncement and to get away
with it. Indeed, I will go further and say that not a few who know or
ought to know that it is not necessary to be intolerant in order to be
patriotic seemed to set their knowledge upon this point at one side. In
war time it is a matter for the scholar's judgment and conscience to
decide whether it is wise to attempt a leadership which at the moment
will be misunderstood and probably ineffective, possibly even dangerous,
because of the reaction, to the cause he has at heart; or to bide his
time in silence, awaiting a more suitable time to be heard. But I submit
that he is sinning against the light when he joins in the hue and cry of
the untrained and the half-trained. The war has given the natural
scientist his chance, and he has profited thereby. In the years to come
the test will, I think, shift to the scholars in the human sciences. The
crises of the future will have to do with problems of human conduct
rather than of the control of physical things; and, as these crises
come, our scholars in human relations should be more ready for the call
to mobilize.

In practically every case the instances that I have given of the
successful tests of our scholarship involve the work of a member of Phi
Beta Kappa or of the sister society, Sigma Xi; and I therefore may be
permitted to say a word more directly to our younger members of the
society of those seeking the philosophy of life, to our Columbia
scholars in the making. In my time, which, by the way, was just
twenty-one years ago, a man who wanted to live the life of a scholar was
practically limited to teaching as the means of making his living. The
result in the way of incompetent and halfhearted teaching we all know.
Let me say to you of to-day that unless you want to teach, there is no
reason under heaven why you should do so. There are plenty of other
means of earning an honest living. The scholar is not nowadays limited
to the academic halls. We have scholars of the first quality not only in
special research institutions, but in government bureaus and in
industrial organizations. The men in government service who could be
spared from their other responsibilities for war work made an excellent
war record. On the other hand, we want to remember that the real
teacher, whether in the faculty or out of it, has a tremendous
advantage in the art of presentation. During the war the effectiveness
of our scholar teachers was well tested by an entirely new set of
pupils, pupils sometimes with eagles or stars on their shoulders, or in
the civil field, captains of industry, clad in the glittering armor of a
big business reputation.

Nowadays one cannot be a scholar in general. One has to have some
specialty. As to what that specialty shall be in terms of usefulness to
the community, I think I have given you examples enough to show that the
range is almost unlimited. I had planned to sum up this by a brief
record of the discovery and application to war purposes of helium; but I
find that one of my own students in Columbia College, now a member of
the Geological Survey, has beaten me out; and you can find the whole
story in the May issue of the _National Geographic Magazine_. I cannot
resist, however, a summary of the steps. First, the astronomer, just
about the time this chapter was established, finds a new line in the
solar spectrum. Thirty years later, the geologist comes upon an unusual
stone and turns to a great chemist for its analysis, with the consequent
recognition of helium as a mundane element. About the same time comes
its identification as one of the newly recognized ingredients of the
air, and the study of its properties. Then a Kansas chemist discovers
its presence in some natural gas about which he was consulted because it
would not burn properly. Then comes the war with its incendiary bullet
and the need of a non-inflammable content for balloons and dirigibles.
Then the coöperation of physicist, engineer, and geologist--Canadian and
American--makes helium available for this purpose. Before these
researches helium cost $1700 a cubic foot and was obtainable only in
Germany. The present price is 10 cents a cubic foot, and it is falling.
The importance of all this for peace is very great. In these days of
airplane hops we are forgetting that a Zeppelin made the trip from
Bulgaria to what should have been German East Africa with medicines and
ammunition. The Germans having disappeared in the meantime, the Zeppelin
turned around and came back, making a continuous voyage of several
thousand miles.

But do not forget that not all scholars made good in the great test. Let
me sum up what I have already said. In the first place, to be useful the
scholarship must be sound. The near-scholar, the man who took the
short-cut in preparation, proved to be a positive danger. The mere
expert in some narrow field, the man who did not realize the
implications of what he knew, was relatively useless. A man to succeed
had to be intense without being narrow. Even among the sound scholars,
the men who really knew, the isolated and insulated individual could
very rarely make much headway. It was the open-minded scholar, the maker
and keeper of friends, who got his chance, the scholar whose learning
was to him a living thing, not necessarily to be displayed in the market
place, and never for the sake of the display, but on the other hand
never wrapped in a napkin and buried in the earth.

Will the scholar, now that his practical worth has been tested and
proved, be content to slip back into relative obscurity; or will he, on
the other hand, be tempted too far into the limelight and thereby lose
those very qualities which gave him his value? Will he be satisfied with
positions of leadership rather than leadership itself, which may be a
very different thing? It is largely for you young men and young women of
the rising generation of scholars to say.


[Footnote 2: An address delivered before the New York Delta of Phi Beta
Kappa at Columbia University upon the fiftieth anniversary of the
establishment of the Chapter, June 3, 1919.]


I am going to try to select three or four general fields in which we
Americans have had a chance to learn lessons of permanent value as the
result of our war experience. Then I shall try to apply these to what
seems to me the most typical specimen of the best in American life, a
great American University; and finally, I shall try to apply them to the
situation which faces you young men and women of the graduating class as
you step out to take your places in the world. And in so doing I'm going
to look deliberately on the bright side. There are troubles enough in
the world to worry and depress us, and we have to face them, but let us
face them with a confidence that is justified in the light of the
examples of man's endurance, of his courage, of his possibilities of
accomplishment, which it has been our privilege to witness within the
lifetime of this academic generation.

What have we learned? In the first place, we have learned that as a
nation we possess the power to see a big job through, and we possess it
because we have the qualities of youth--enthusiasm, learning capacity,
energy, elasticity, initiative--the pioneering spirit. We have the
shortcomings of youth also--impatience, superficiality, improvidence,
cock-sureness--but when the test came we managed to strengthen our
virtues and to a large extent to overcome our failings.

The various stocks that have emigrated to our shores have come as
successive waves of pioneers, of men to whom new and unfamiliar
conditions serve as an incentive rather than a discouragement, and it is
the persistence of this pioneering spirit, essentially a youthful
spirit, which has had much to do with our success.

What single group made the finest impression in the great war? I think
we will agree that it was the American doughboy. As one saw him in
France he was absolutely youth incarnate, and he is a cross section of
our complex population. If anyone still doubts that all of these stocks,
the Teutonic included, have been willing to do their share even at the
risk or cost of life, let him read any of the lists of battle
casualties or the list of honors for heroic conduct and he will have the
best kind of proof. Let us remember in this connection that nearly
one-fourth of our drafted men couldn't speak and write English
adequately when they entered the Army. In spite of a number of unsightly
pieces of slag, which are either floating on the surface or have sunk to
the bottom, the great national melting pot has evidently done its work

Our heterogeneous immigration, our enormous national resources, which
have tempted us to live on capital rather than on interest, our
prosperity, have made us neither fat nor flabby. We now know that as a
people we don't really care about money or the money game if we are
shown some other game better worth playing; that selfishness and luxury
drop away as if by magic when they interfere with the keener
satisfactions of giving one's self. Even for us stay-at-homes, the
Liberty Loan people, Mr. Hoover, the Red Cross and other welfare workers
were on hand to show us how to play the better game. I don't need to
remind you of the details, nor that in spite of human grumbling and talk
of sacrifice, in the bottom of our hearts we all enjoyed the process.

In the second place, we have learned that to see the job through we need
all of the nation, men and women, not merely the profession of arms and
the mysterious powers of finance--we need all of everyone. We need them
not as individuals but as a team, and we have learned that we can
develop team play.

Our easiest jobs were the raising of our men and our money; our hardest,
the moulding of the whole into an organic unity. Just as our young men
by the millions took their place in the line when the bugle blew, older
men by the tens of thousands left their private affairs to get along as
best they might, and regardless of political affiliations or personal
convenience, found place for themselves in the administrative army. And
they were ably seconded by the women. Hundreds of men in key positions
have gladly borne witness to the share which their secretaries and their
other women associates played in bringing about the needed results.

The first days of the war were days of whirling confusion, colored by
glowing forecasts. Then followed months of experimentation, by trial and
error, of hope deferred by long delays, of well meant but none the less
embarrassing internal rivalries, of sudden spurts. Later came the days
of last autumn, when the whole great machine was throbbing rhythmically
and steadily, with only a minor "knock" here and there--a sure
indication to the watchful enemy, who had had more than a taste of what
the machine could produce, that the game was up; and finally the
eleventh of November and the order to reverse the engines.

It ought to be evident from our experience that for any great enterprise
we need all the young men and the young women, and all the older ones
who are still young in heart. We need to know who they are, where they
are, what they can do, and we need to touch them at every point; for not
only do we need them all, but we need all of each one of them. We should
never again face a great national crisis with nearly one-third of our
men of military age unfit for hard physical work. We need campaigns of
physical education and social hygiene, and we need to apply the lessons
in human salvage which the army has learned during the war. But we need
more than each individual and all of him. We must see to it that the
individual star, of whatever magnitude, is subordinated to the team play
of the group. And team play means more than energy and "pep." It means
a marshalling of the old fashioned and homely virtues of courtesy,
deference and consideration.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the third place, we have learned that to accomplish a great result we
need the leadership of those who know and who know vividly and
constructively. Our experience has been that in certain fields, finance,
science, manufacturing in quantity production, medicine, we had a supply
of those who knew. In other fields, in intimate knowledge of foreign
conditions and foreign languages for example, we had not.

At first we didn't know where our leaders were, and in many cases we
began by following false prophets. The value of one man with training,
brains and persistence can be shown by a single example: There was a man
who answered these qualifications connected with the Council of National
Defence, not in a very exalted position. He was the first in all this
country to see that the army program and the shipping program did not
fit. It took him a long time to convince the two groups of overworked,
harried officials that neither could play the game alone; that the
closest coöperation was necessary. He had no access to the records, but
he finally managed to build up a convincing statement out of the shreds
of information which he gathered here and there, and at last he
succeeded in getting everyone concerned into the attitude of wanting to
face the facts. Everyone would have had to face them sooner or later,
but without the devotion and leadership of this one man, it would have
been only as the result of a very serious dislocation of function.

One field in which the right leadership has been most brilliantly
rewarded is that of medicine. Just consider what we have done in this
field: The success of the anti-typhoid injections; the reduction in
dysenteric diseases due to chlorination of drinking water; the
encouraging fight against cerebro-spinal meningitis and pneumonia; the
identification of trench fever, and the practical freedom from typhus.
As to wounds, a tetanus antitoxin which has made lock-jaw almost a
negligible disease; a serum against gas gangrene; the Carrel-Dakin
method of chemical sterilization of wounds; the splinting of fractures
on the battle field and overhead extension apparatus in the hospital. To
quote Simon Flexner, "The entire psychology of the wounded men was
altered, the wards made cheerful and happy, pain abolished, infection
controlled, and recovery hastened by means of the new or improved
surgical and mechanical measures put into common use."

       *       *       *       *       *

The fourth lesson of which I wish to speak is that a high aim and ideal
is what counts most of all, what lifts the individual up from
selfishness and sloth. To bind the country together and to make the
transformation which still seems miraculous, we had a noble national
aim, a complete dedication to the task before us, an utter absence of
any selfish or self-seeking factor in the whole enterprise. The conduct
of our soldiers, their submission to a discipline to which most of them
were completely unused was, I think, in a very large measure due to the
recognition of this aim. We recognized it as a nation and we recognized
it in one another. The standard of contact set by our soldiers during
the days of conflict is unique in military history. Whole divisions went
for months without a single court-martial. The reason was, more than
anything else, the national assumption that they would give a good
account of themselves and the fact that they felt themselves in
training for the championship, and no man wanted to miss his chance on
the battlefield for the sake of a selfish indulgence.

Some of the experiments in conduct tried in the American Expeditionary
Forces were extraordinary in their success. The leave areas, an immense
enterprise, were run on the basis of absolute freedom to the enlisted
man. He lived in the best hotels in Europe and amused himself in casinos
where crowned heads had been in the habit of gambling away the money of
their subjects. He had no roll calls, no taps, no officers in sight, no
military machinery whatever. He arose when he pleased, either before or
after his breakfast; he ate and drank when he pleased, and he stayed out
as late as he pleased. The physical and moral effect of this absolute
change from the military régime was a very interesting and instructive
phenomenon, but that is not the point I wish to make. Out of the
thousands and thousands of men who were sent to these leave areas, there
was hardly a single case in which a man abused the trust which was put
upon him or failed to turn up on time to go back to the grind of
military duty. This could never have been done with soldiers of another
type, with soldiers lacking an ideal.

Someone has recently written that fine minds have been finely touched by
the war, and base minds basely. He might have added that wise minds have
been wisely touched, and foolish minds foolishly. In general, I think it
may fairly be said that when the appeal was to the finest in a man's
character, the result was correspondingly fine.

       *       *       *       *       *

These, it seems to me, are the four main things we have learned, or at
any rate we have had a chance to learn. First, that we are a real
nation, potentially strong with the strength of youth. Second, that to
fulfill our mission, every man and woman and all of every such
individual is an object of national concern; that we must be mobilized
and we must continue our lessons in team play. We have still plenty to
learn in this field. Third, that we must have and must recognize the
leadership of those who know, which, after all, is the great test of a
democracy. Fourth, that to bring out the best that is in us, as
individuals and as a nation, we must have an aim, high, clear-cut and
clearly understood. If, now, I attempt to apply these four lessons which
we have had a chance to learn, to educational conditions, and
particularly to university conditions, it will be for three reasons: The
first is the general wisdom of confining one's remarks to things he
knows something about. The second, that there is no single institution
more characteristic of the best in our American life than a great
American University. And there is this third reason, that if we had not
had a supply of young men with the stamp of the American college upon
them, we could never have met the call for officers, for nearly a
quarter of a million of them. I am told that the Germans were prepared
to admit and to discount our wealth in money, in materials and in man
power, but they looked forward confidently to a complete failure on our
part in training officers to lead our men in battle. Of course, all the
citizen officers who made good records were not college men, but the
college trained citizens were the men who set the pace and made the

It was Pitt who said, "The atrocious crime of being a young man I shall
attempt neither to palliate nor to deny." Nor should a university seek
to palliate or to deny the charge of being a place of resort for youth.
A university, it seems to me, should be a place where the primary object
is not the repression of youthful exuberance nor the correction of
youthful failings (though both may be necessary on occasion), but
rather, a place for the encouragement of the great and vital qualities
of youth--enthusiasm, energy, power of acquisition, sensitiveness of
impression. It is the place where the older members of the community
have the best chance to stay young. The university should be essentially
a company of enthusiasts, of pioneers. There is a frontier for every
worker to clear--no matter how narrow or how wide his horizon may be. In
a university there is no proper place, among faculty or students, for
the disillusioned, the cynical, the defeatist.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now we come to the application of the second lesson, the lesson of
mobilization, of team play. In the first place, no university is alive
where mobilization is limited to the Recorder's office. In a live
institution, regent, professor, student, janitor, each is a part of the
game and must feel that he is. He must feel that in its administration
the institution has learned the great lesson of direct and human
personal contact. Science, among all its triumphs, cannot include any
device for conveying a message from mind to mind or from heart to heart
half so good as the human voice and the human eye. Within the faculty,
this element of human coöperation should be reflected by the vitality of
the organism rather than by the complexity of the organization, which
may not be vital at all. Each member must feel that the general repute
is safeguarded by honest and intelligent standards, honestly and
intelligently administered. The university, like the country at large,
must make itself responsible for all of each and every student, his
bodily condition, for example, just as directly as his mental.

It will be recalled that one of my justifications for applying war
experiences to university conditions was the share which the college and
university men had in building up our supply of officers. If we study
why the college men made good officers, and make allowance for the fact
that it is the kind of man who goes to college who is likely to make a
good officer anyway, and all the other allowances we can think of, we
can't dodge the conclusion that there is something outside of the
college curriculum which has been an important factor in bringing about
the results. On the other hand, important as the other factors are, the
curriculum has had its share, and it is in my judgment a leading and
not always an adequately recognized share. The comfortable theory that
once he has settled down to something important the college
ne'er-do-well will suddenly blossom forth into a competent leader of men
didn't work out in practice. It may have happened here and there, but it
didn't happen as a general rule. In the fighting line, it was very
generally the man with a sound academic record, not necessarily the Phi
Beta Kappa lad, but the good scholar and active college citizen, the man
who had taken the trouble to learn things and learn people, who made the
best record. I naturally watched with particular interest the records of
my own old students at Columbia, and I know that this is so.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a significant fact, however, for those of us who are interested in
the welfare of college boys and girls, that the United States government
deliberately built up what was to all intents and purposes an
undergraduate college life for the young men of the army, with
athletics, dances, dramatics, singing, and all the rest, even including
opportunities for reading and study. Even the most hardened of regular
officers, who at the first, I fear, regarded this as some of the
civilian foolishness with which all soldiers have to contend, came to
see that the program was a vital factor in building up such a body of
fighting men as they had never seen. And this is only another way of
saying that if you want to use the human machine for any purpose, you
must concern yourself with the whole of it. Human nature does not come
in air-tight compartments.

President Wilson coined a phrase which has thoroughly gone the rounds
when he said that the side-shows of college life should not overshadow
nor distract from the entertainment in the main tent. We all agree to
this. But I think we are more inclined than when the words were spoken
to urge that the side-shows, properly and intelligently subordinated,
should be under the same management as the main tent. The army has tried
the experiment on a large scale and it has worked well. In February last
there were in France and on the Rhine six million and a half individual
participants in athletic games, ten million attendants on
entertainments, nearly a quarter of a million students.

       *       *       *       *       *

None of the lessons which the Army has learned are more significant
than those which have to do with mobilization and classification. The
activities of the Provost Marshal General, of the Committee on
Classification and Personnel, in coöperation with the Committee on
Education, furnish the best record of large scale human engineering in
the new science of personnel of which we have any record, either in this
country or, I think, elsewhere.

A university like this one is an army, and not such a small army either,
judging by peacetime standards. The United States found that it was
worth while, indeed that it was absolutely necessary in organizing its
forces, to find out everything it could about every man in the army,
what he needed physically to increase his efficiency; what he needed to
keep him interested and out of mischief; what he should have in the way
of training--based on what he knew already and based on careful mental
tests--to make him of the greatest usefulness; whether he had the will
to win, and if not, whether anything could be done to get it into him.

In a word, the United States wanted to know just what each man's
possibilities were. Was he officer material or non-com material? Should
he go into the line or one of the special corps--or to the labor
battalion? As a result of this program, the Army succeeded in finding a
place that counted for 98 per cent of the drafted men.

Now I realize that a university can't do all these things with its army
in just the way the government can. It can't casually transfer a man
from engineering to psychology, nor a girl from philosophy to
cookery--or _vice versa_--no matter how desirable such a transfer might
be for the individual and the community. But it can do a great deal more
than it now does in finding out about all its members, informing them of
their strength and weaknesses, in seeing that every student gets a
chance to enjoy in so far as possible the high privileges of youth, and
to get a helping hand over the bumps in the road, which also come with
youth. Every student ought to have the opportunity to round out his
character and his capacities. It ought not to be left to chance that any
student gets the best personal contacts for him or her with faculty and
fellow-students, the best opportunities for learning team play. Every
student ought to leave with some definite aim in life, and if possible
an aim high enough to be an ideal that is worth working for.

A university is not doing its full duty if its athletics and social life
are limited to those who need these the least; if its alumni are
regarded merely as fillers of the grandstands or recipients of oratory,
and possible sources of pecuniary support. The alumni are the best
possible sources of keeping the faculty informed as to what the world
really wants in the way of trained men and women, and, for the students,
of information, suggestions, and jobs, both temporary and permanent.

I realize that many of these things are now done here and elsewhere, but
in the light of what we have learned from the experience of the
University of Uncle Sam, I am sure that our American universities and
colleges have hardly scratched the surface of what they might do and
what, I think, they will ultimately do in the realm of human
engineering. Nearly all educational institutions merely follow what they
find the leaders are doing, and in this field there is an opportunity, I
am sure, for real leadership.

We know now that men and women can be measured by impersonal tests and
that it is practicable to put aside the material which it is either
impossible to fashion in the academic mould, or for which, even if the
job is possible, the expense in wear and tear is entirely beyond the
value of the result to be obtained. To be specific, why shouldn't we
have an intelligence test of candidates for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy, just as we had a physical and psychological examination for
candidates for the flying schools?

I don't mean that we should leap from one illogical position clear
across the road into another. Mental measurements are not yet an exact
science, and a man of moderate ability, with a will to succeed, may be a
better academic investment than his more brilliant brother who lacks
that quality; but, by pruning very sparingly (one does not have to chop
down a tree to prune it) the saving in time and energy will be enormous.

Fundamentally the human relationships are what count, the qualities
leading to team play and coöperation, and away from isolation and its
ills. This means that if a faculty is to exercise its leadership, it
must know the student body, it must maintain and develop points of human
touch. Impersonal tests, impersonal records, all that modern practice
and modern science can teach us we must have, but these must be used
only as the framework for what is after all the fundamental thing,
direct human contact between teacher and teacher, teacher and student,
and student and student.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now as to leadership, and in a university we can identify the leaders
with the teachers, there is no doubt, I think, that the teachers'
profession comes out of the war in a higher place than it went in, and
the scholar goes back to his work with a feeling of confidence in
himself in view of his record in competition and comparison with men in
other callings. I venture to predict that we shall hear a good deal less
frequently in the future the old gibe that the man who could do things
did them and the man who couldn't, taught them. The teachers made good,
not only because of their scholarship, but because of their personality.
I think this experience of the last two years is going to accelerate
greatly the movement which had already started of turning to the
academic world for the man who can do things and do them with other
people. Entirely apart from the contrasts in income, the sheer fun of
executive work, with plenty of money to spend on what you want to get
done, is a pretty strong temptation for a man with a heavy teaching
schedule and an annual department appropriation of say $75. Both the
regular army officers who have made conspicuously good, and the scholars
of the coöperative type who have made conspicuously good, are being
actively bidden for by bankers and manufacturers and all sorts of
people. Neither profession can compete on the purely financial side with
these tempters and, in order to hold their first-rate men, they will
each have to make some greater contribution in the things that money
alone can't buy.

Both in the nation and in our republics of letters and science, we must
learn to distinguish more clearly between the power that comes with
knowledge, and the ability to talk about things. It was very interesting
to watch in Washington the gradual substitution of the man with the
latter quality by the man with the former in positions of
responsibility, and I am going to confess that, in the early days, some
of the conferences which it was my privilege or my duty to attend,
reminded me for all the world of certain faculty meetings, in which
gentlemen without definite knowledge of the matter in hand were
discussing at considerable length what they were pleased to call
principles, but which were really off-hand impressions.

I think that in their service to the university and to the nation, the
scholars may well profit by the demonstration that it was not only the
man who knew his subject, but the man who knew how to deal with his
fellow men, who was likely to make his impression. Isn't there such a
thing as academic provincialism, even within the walls of a man's own
university, certainly as between institution and institution, which can
be remedied by the encouragement of these social and coöperative sides
of the scholar's character? It seems to me that we all should face a
fundamental extension in the definition of a scholar, away from the
individual, the selfish, out to the social and constructive.

In our educational institutions scholarship has three functions: To
broaden the field of existing knowledge, and the war has shown us that
every field has its valuable practical applications; to train the coming
generation of experts, and any country needs not only a handful of
distinguished leaders but a great body of well-trained men and women
who, when the emergency arises, stand ready to meet it; and last but not
least, to inspire a recognition of what scholarship is and a respect for
it in the minds of the general students, few of whom, by the most
generous stretch of the imagination, can be regarded as scholars
themselves, but whose influence in their generation throughout the
country is a very important factor. Our nation needs a respect for
expert knowledge and it needs a respect for intelligence, and our
college graduates can do more than any other group to develop this

       *       *       *       *       *

We have taken up three of our four lessons as these affect the
university: the emphasis on youth, the need of mobilization and team
play, and the need of leadership. There remains the fourth factor, a
high, clear-cut aim.

The most serious charge against the American undergraduate in the past
has been the lack of a sense of responsibility. We now know from their
war records that the sense of responsibility lay latent in thousands of
these boys and was only awaiting an impulse sufficiently strong to
arouse it.

President Hibben of Princeton, who ought to know the American
undergraduate if anybody does, said recently: "Young men are capable of
far greater amounts of intensive work day in and day out than we had
dreamed of; capable of greater concentration of mind upon their tasks.
They respond more quickly than we have conceived to the call of duty.
The sense of responsibility is there latent, and we teachers must
endeavor to quicken and to appeal to it. We have seen that when the
occasion comes these young men rise to meet it."

We can't very well stage a world war for the purpose, and I don't think
we need wait for any such crisis to bring it out. There is in every
normal, wholesome-minded student some motor nerve that can be touched in
such a way as to release that type of coördinated energy which we call a
sense of responsibility. This all goes back to knowing our men and women
and establishing human contacts and human confidences.

In spite of individual disappointments, and as a college dean, I have
had my share, I am confident that the normal young American either
already possesses as a motive force some worth-while aim or that he can
be guided toward such an aim if approached in the right way.

Let me quote a paragraph or so from the report of the War Department
Committee on Education:

"Because the war did completely organize the nation for a united drive
and thus did expose a magnificent national morale, many are inclined to
believe that war is necessary to call forth such consecration and
self-forgetful service. Analysis of the war training, however, reveals a
point of view and a method of procedure that is definitely designed to
develop team-play and to enhance morale whether there be war or not. If
these methods are applied to education in times of peace, they certainly
will produce some effect even though the result is not as profoundly
striking as it was during the war. Among the many significant features
of war training, the following are mentioned as worthy of particular
consideration for transfer to school practice:

"As a primary policy, a nation at war is obliged to recognize that every
individual is an asset capable of useful service in some particular line
of work of direct benefit to the country. In order to make the most
efficient use of all its resources, it is necessary to make strenuous
exertions to discover what each individual is best qualified to do and
to train each to use his abilities in the most effective manner. Applied
to education this fundamental attitude produces two results that are of
importance in the development of morale. The teacher's point of view
shifts from a critical one, with attention focused on discovering
whether the individual measures up to the academic standards fixed by
school authorities, to one of friendly, not to say eager interest to
discover what each individual really can do well. The student's spirit
also changes from one of discouragement and doubt of his ability ever to
make good, to one of interest and desire for achievement. Both of these
results are of large importance in releasing energy for both the teacher
and the student. They also have an immediate bearing on the enhancement
of morale."

In any place of campaign to this end within a college or university, the
first thing to do is to build around that vague but very real emotion
called college spirit, to supplement this by guiding our young people to
enlist in worth-while, nation-wide or world-wide causes (we are
singularly provincial about this in America), and by ensuring better
teaching and supervision and better coördination of work.

There is no question that we have underestimated both the American
undergraduate's capacity for intellectual work and his real pleasure in
it when he feels it worth while. One of my friends was telling me of
his experiences as commanding officer of one of the ground schools for
aviators, where a large proportion of the candidates were college
undergraduates, and I asked him if he had had any troubles as to
discipline. "Yes indeed," he replied, "night after night we'd catch some
fellows studying with a peep-light under their blankets, after taps had

Any doubts as to the instinctive reaction of the normal, healthy young
American toward educational opportunities were dispelled by the
experiences of the army in France after the armistice. The let-down,
after the terrific physical and emotional strain, the impatience
regarding any delay as to return home, combined to make a pretty serious
situation as to the morale of our troops. After some misguided and
nearly disastrous experiments as to the curative properties of heavy
drill and strict discipline, the A.E.F. recognized the necessity for a
prompt and thorough stimulation of all the welfare activities, and a
real educational program; and it was straight, old-fashioned book-work
more than it was the movies, or athletics, more even than Miss Elsie
Janis, which turned the corner for us. In all, more than 200,000 men
volunteered for the privilege of studying. The military order was often
reversed and majors sat at the feet of the corporals or privates who had
been selected as teachers. The reports as to the intensity of the work
of teachers and students alike should put any of us professionals to

       *       *       *       *       *

Just now we are hearing a great deal about the benefits of discipline. I
think what the speakers are really talking about, though they don't
recognize it themselves, is the benefit of the state of mind which
accepts and welcomes discipline. We are not, even as the result of the
war, a disciplined people in the sense that Germany is, or was, and we
can thank God for it. We shall never want in this country a general
subordination of the individual will and initiative to external control.
Discipline is a means and not an end. If discipline, as such, externally
imposed, were so important a factor in success as many people seem to
think to-day, we could look through a list of ex-enlisted men in the
army and navy--I mean the men enlisted and discharged during peace
time--and find a relatively large number who made conspicuously good
records after returning to civil life. As a matter of fact, we find
nothing of the kind.

What we do find is that not a few enlisted men who chose the army or the
navy as their permanent career have won commissions and made fine
records. There were no better general officers in the war than men like
Harbord of our army and Robertson of the British, both of whom rose from
the ranks. But isn't it fair to say that the discipline imposed on these
men was accepted gladly and accepted in the terms of their fundamental
interest, and that these men are not really exceptions to what I have

I venture to predict that there will be a very different record to tell
as to the success in civil life of those men now leaving the Army, who,
because they believed in the cause and wished to participate to the full
in the great enterprise, gladly submitted themselves to the discipline
for the purpose of increasing their efficiency.

In a month or so you can teach an enthusiastic man, who is fired by a
big idea, all the discipline he needs for carrying out his duties and
profiting by his opportunities, but you can't reverse the process and
incite enthusiasms as a result of the application of discipline.

Don't think that I want to minimize the merits of military discipline
for military purposes. Of course, coördination and subordination are
absolutely necessary in the handling of large bodies of men. Even the
men in France who deserted to the front, as many of them did, no matter
how much we may sympathize with their desire to get into the game, had
to be disciplined. Someone had to stay behind and see to the supplies.
The point we are discussing is the carrying over of this principle of
military discipline intact into civilian life. So far as discipline
brings about regularity of life, of exercise, so long as it ministers to
alertness, we can use it, but as between discipline on the one hand, and
initiative and team play on the other, to meet our academic or our
national needs, I am for initiative and team play.

Please don't misunderstand me. By reducing the present emphasis on
external discipline, after childhood has been passed, I don't mean a
lowering of standards. External discipline, it seems to me, is often
really imposed as a substitute for high standards; something supposed to
be just as good and more easy to keep in stock. The standards of the
worth-while organization, and these are the outward expression of its
aims, its ideals, ought to be high enough and intelligently enough
administered to make sure that the men and women who are unable to
provide their own discipline, should in the general interest be
painlessly but promptly removed from the group.

Here is a _credo_ for the American people, from the pen of a regular
army officer. It's a pretty good one for an American University: "To
foster individual talent, imagination and initiative, to couple with
this a high degree of coöperation, and to subject these to a not too
minute direction; the whole vitalized by a supreme purpose, which serves
as the magic key to unlock the upper strata of the energies of men."

       *       *       *       *       *

Finally, let me try to apply these lessons to you young men and women of
the graduating class.

Keep in good physical shape. Overwork is usually a combination of bad
air, bad feeding, and lack of exercise and sleep. See that you don't go
stale. If you lack the zest of life, find out what the trouble is;
whether it is your teeth or your liver or your soul. Picture to yourself
what Theodore Roosevelt got out of life.

Be honest with yourself. Do your own thinking and do it straight. This,
strangely enough, is perhaps the thing which you will find hardest to do
after the undergraduate atmosphere. A student body is, or at any rate
was before the war, the most convention ridden group of which I have any
knowledge. I am all for conventions, because they save a great deal of
time and worry, but only so far as we recognize them as conventions and
do not exalt them into principles or philosophical truths. Remember that
the public opinion of America is an infinitely more important thing to
the world than ever before, and that you are each to be a part of it.

Keep your intellectual interests and your interest in your _alma mater_,
not in her athletics and her fraternities alone. Remember that as alumni
of this University you are citizens of no mean city. Recruit men and
women whom she ought to have and who ought to have her, remembering that
the danger to this country from the inside, and it is no inconsiderable
danger, is mainly due to the misdirected zeal of sincere people who lack
knowledge and background. Take for example the employer who can't see
beyond the point of telling his men to "take it or leave it," and the
workman whose sense of real or fancied injustice has brought him to what
with our children we know as the kicking and biting stage. It is too
late to do much with the present adult generation except by main
strength and awkwardness, but a recruit for higher education from either
of these groups is a good national investment.

Keep your human contacts. Don't be a "glad-hander" but do at least your
share. It takes two to make and keep alive a friendship, just as it does
a quarrel. There is something worth while in everyone. Give yourself a
chance to find what it is. Practice following and, as the chance comes
to you, practice leading, but above all, practice team play. Keep
yourself ready to take the next step, whatever it may be. There is a
story of Marshal Joffre, of which I can at least say that it is good
enough to be true. After the first battle of the Marne some enthusiast
was proclaiming him as a second Napoleon and laying it on pretty thick.
The old gentleman stood it as long as he could and then said: "No,
Napoleon would have known what to do next, and I don't."

Keep your enthusiasms and your ideals. In other words, keep your youth.
In choosing your life work, get into something in which the policy and
practice are such that you can throw your whole soul into the job. Don't
take yourself seriously, but take your opportunities for usefulness
seriously. Find out the callings in which America is short. There are
plenty of them, as the war has shown. Think over whether it isn't
possible for you to be one of the men or one of the women who, from your
training and momentum and vision, will be selected ten or fifteen or
twenty years hence, to take on some important job, with the nation as
your client, as the one person best qualified to fill it.

We no longer have to prove that it pays to know, to really know almost
anything that is worth while. It pays in money, if that is what one
wants; it pays in the more enduring satisfactions of life, in the
pleasure that comes from exact knowledge and intellectual pioneering, in
the almost unique joy of creation without the responsibilities of
possession, and in the feeling of individual readiness to be of use in
meeting the problems which the years allotted to your generation will
surely bring forth.


[Footnote 3: Commencement address delivered at the University of
Michigan, June 26, 1919.]

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