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Oakman Boulevard Improvement Association address

1920

I am a great deal more interested in the kind of work that you are trying to do, than I am in things distinctly political. I am not fond of politics. I am pleased with this beautiful auditorium, with your organization and with the exhibition of your orchestra tonight.

It is a very peculiar day for America. Since the great war the morale of this and other countries has fallen. Men are busy making and spending money. We forget the big things in seeking for happiness and success. I have been trying for thirty years to awaken young men and women to realize what life is. My students average twenty-one and a half years of age. That means that there are some from thirty-five to forty years of age, both men and women. Women do not admit this, but I know.

It is a series mistake to think that education should receive no attention after we reach a certain age. When we are too old to learn anything, it is time to go to the cemetery, dig our grave and fall in. Schools should be conducted for twelve months in the year with two distinct groups of instructors. I know what you will say: "Taxes, taxes, taxes." Don't say it to me.

I think that men and women who take care of boys and girls do not get enough pay. I am glad that the war has brought out the discovery that women have brains. Men said they have not any. Women you found out you could go into industries and earn a splendid wage. As a consequence of this we are short of teachers and the future is all changed.

The largest wealth is not in splendid buildings, streets, lighting systems, or transportation facilities, but in the lives of boys and girls.

I want you to understand that this phase of democracy or idea, that workmen and father and mothers in a community cannot help, is little less than tragedy.

We simply give our boys and girls enough education to earn a living. That is a mistake. Many times when they become of a mature age, they go back to school again because they realize that they need the education. I do not want anyone to believe that the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh or any grade is enough education. The tendency in a great city like this is to cut short the training and education of the boys and girls.

In 1916 only fifteen million women voted, about one-third stayed at home. I want to remind you women of your power. You could elect the president of the United States this year or the governor. It is up to you to work along with the men.

A judge said that he though crime could be remedied by organizations like this. Some people think that they do not have to become members of organizations of this kind. They believe others should carry on the work. But let me tell you that you all have to pull together in this neighborhood, if you want real results. The more you can have in these communities of education and sanitation, the more you can do to beautify your buildings, improve your streets and secure playgrounds.

If you want to get real joy out of life you must get it out of your daily work. The highest work is that of social work because it gives joy to the worker and subsequently to someone else. There is absolutely no limit to be blacked on community organization.

I hope you have made some provisions for recreation centers, where boys can learn by playing together the qualities that will enable them to work together as men.

Men and women starve to death for social enjoyment. So we assemble in a community gathering. Unless encouragement is given this community idea, we shall see worse days.

Men and women if you are not in this organization, come in and do your part.

I want to talk to younger members about monuments. If I had my way, there would be in every community a life sized statue of Abraham Lincolcn.

Leland Stanford had a son who died at the age of fifteen. Did his parents build a big mausoleum? No, they built the Leland Stanford University. If one has lost a son or daughter, or any one dear to him, the only thing worthwhile is to go on with the ideals of that person. Mrs. Stanford put her jewels up in trust so that the doors of the university would not be closed. That was in memory of her dead son.

Let us in whatever way we are best qualified serve our own community and thus fulfill the highest democracy.


Source: Newton, Roy, editor. Life and Works of Woodbridge N. Ferris. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1960), 261-264.


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