My young friends:
This is decidedly unexpected on my part and I am the one who gets the largest measure of happiness from this little visit, which I shall remember as long as I live. I do not know how much longer that will be, but I shall always remember this day. It is a great pleasure for me to come here and listen to the exercises of this afternoon. I wish I were able to tell some story that would be pleasing to you, particularly the little ones, as they are the ones I desire to make happy. If I could I would capture them all and take them back home with me. I am sure you would not want to go because you are living in a grand and beautiful place.
I am wondering if the older ones can really understand that there are thousands and tens of thousands in this state of ours, and in the United States, who have little or nothing of the sunshine and joy of life you have. I am just hoping that in some way while in the institution, you will have the desire to go out into the world to help these boys and girls who have not the advantages you have.
I am sure that is one of the lessons you learn here morning, noon and night, to serve others, particularly those who cannot have what you have, such as the beautiful music, the flowers, and all that goes to give you a delightful vision of life. I want the older girls to understand that there are little ones waiting for your coming.
I never had many opportunities as a lad. As a boy, I had my share of fun and work, but one thing I want to impress upon you is the value of work. I am a disciple and teacher of that gospel. One of the best things in life is work. Your best teacher, your best instructor is he who will say, "this, your task, must be done." I hope you have learned that lesson. I presume if you were asked whom you like best, it is not the one who says you must do this particular task.
I do not want you to think I was an angel. I hope to be sometime, although some of my friends have some doubts about it. How I understand it is the things I had to do, the obedience I had to render that made my character develop. Useful work is one of the factors where obedience is absolutely necessary. You have learned all this.
I can see the sunshine and laughter in your happy faces, and I want you to enjoy the music and the flowers, but while doing this, I wish you to carry out something to make you useful wherever you are. I enjoy particularly the recitations and music and I am glad to go back to my school and tell them of this. My school is not made of a class like you. My students are mostly men and women who have not had many advantages.
My oldest pupil who was sixty years of age, remained a year. When I asked her how she enjoyed it, she said it was the happiest year of her life. She did not come for the sake of earning a living, but just for the pleasure of learning. I hope none of you will ever get so old that you do not want to learn.
The oldest man I had was fifty-six years, I had a man, his wife, and two or three children attending school at one time. My boys and girls are hungry, not for something to eat, but for learning, and to make themselves useful. I know that you get hungry, all boys and girls do, but I hope it will be the hunger for learning.
I know that you are anxious that even the governor should give you a little rest, so I will close, thanking you personally for the joy you have given me, and if you should ever come to Lansing, you do not need a pass to enter my office, walk right in and I wioll give you the right-of-way to the whole building.