A Graduation Address from 1936

This is graduation season.  High school seniors are excited to move on from the babysitting exercise that is public education, most to the brainwashing exercise that is college.  Some will enter trade jobs; some will enlist in the military. Some can even write a coherent paragraph and do mathematics.  But just a few.

A number of years back, my mother passed away.  While I was cleaning out the attic of my boyhood home, I came across a yearbook from her senior year at Jefferson High School, 1936.  What a treasure find!  I remembered my mom as I paged through the book.

In 1936, things were changing quickly.  A picture of the principal of the school in the yearbook shows a black telephone on his desk, certainly a status symbol of the day.  The Depression was wearing on, with New Deal socialism widely welcomed.  Hitler was chancellor of Germany, and the Dachau concentration camp was open, both for over three years.  Appeaser Neville Chamberlain was a year from becoming prime minister of the U.K.  And while slavery was gone, "separate but equal" was in force, and racial division was the norm.

Little did they know, but many of the young men and women pictured in my mother's yearbook would find themselves fighting Germany and Japan a short five years later.

In the yearbook, I found several letters to the graduates from local leaders.  Most were what you would expect: well wishes and good luck.  However, one was from the pastor of a church across the street from the high school, Rev. Dr. Richard Owens.  Take a look at his letter to the graduates, keeping in mind the brief sketch of 1936 I have presented.

My Dear Friends:

You are living now, not simply preparing to live.  You can never turn back the page.  The years will only provide opportunity to live more effectively.  But the past can become inspiration, equipment and direction.  The earth transmutes the foliage and flowers of the past into the beauty and fruit of the present.

I wish for each one of you the finest that can be achieved in life, and the largest service possible to your capacity.

Always be open to truth.  Wherever you find it recognize it as the manifestation of God.  There has never been, nor will there ever be, any conflict between science and religion.  All come from the same heavenly Father.  A child knows there is a difference between his father's pencil and his watch, but never doubts that both belong to his father.  Never be afraid of any truth.

Be sure you do more than seek truth.  Find it.  It is not the search for food that builds the body, but its assimilation.  It is imperative that you believe some things so firmly that they become a part of you.  Stability is rooted in integrity.  Honor, virtue, courage and faith are eternal virtues, and without them your life will be a compromise.

I believe you have as fine qualities as ever gave surety to the hopes of any generation.  You face the world at a period of arresting questions, difficult problems and a restless social order.  Yet, it is a period of growth, holding before you the challenge whose terms demand your best.

Let that singing line from Tennyson's Idylls of the King stay with you – "O Loyal to the royal in thyself."

Sincerely your friend,

Richard S. Owens

Every time I read this letter, tears come to my eyes – not just because of what we have lost, but more because my spirit sings in harmony with these principles.  The young men and women pictured in the yearbook are the ones who defeated Hitler and Tojo.  These are the people who put men on the Moon.  These are the people who rebuilt Japan and taught them to be a world-class manufacturing giant (well, until socialism took hold).  These are the people who built the United States into a superpower and ultimately defeated the Soviet Union without scorching the planet with nuclear war.  These are men and women of strength and character, who had flaws but who learned and adapted in spite of them, and they achieved.

But look at all that has changed since.

"...the past can become inspiration..."  We shun the past, ignore or revise history, all to make young minds more conformable to socialism.

"...the finest that can be achieved in life..."  Achievement is today considered ugly and even a form of bullying.

"Always be open to truth."  What is truth?  Pilate asked Jesus this question.  Today, truth is relative, what you want it to be.  Openness to real truth is not required when a mind can shape relative truth to fit the situation.

"...recognize it as the manifestation of God..."  God?  Another outmoded crutch of crusading oppressors.

"There has never been ... any conflict between science and religion."  Socialists remove this conflict today not through an understanding of both science and religion, but by simply eliminating religion.

"Find it."  Finding truth is of little value today.  What's valued is seeking – that is, bumbling through life from rock to rock, smoking a joint on a rock, taking a nap on a rock, living on someone else's rock, falling off a rock into the river and stinking like river water, all the while believing in the noble quest.  Seekers don't know what they are seeking, but they seek nonetheless, not suspecting that what they seek is something their parents had but threw out.

"...believe some things so firmly that they become a part of you..."  Today, this is a recipe for closed-mindedness.  We rather must be flexible, open to compromise, progressive, and forward thinking.

"Stability is rooted in integrity. Honor, virtue, courage and faith are eternal virtues, and without them your life will be a compromise."  On the contrary, the only virtue at present is compromise.  These other "virtues" only oppress others.

"...the challenge whose terms demand your best..."  Challenge is overrated today.  Wouldn't it be better to just chill and watch some videos on YouTube?  And the term "best" is used only to put others down.

I was born nearly 25 years after this letter was written, and already those values were being erased by the liberal news media, Hollywood, and public de-education.  My generation in the '60s and '70s accepted the devaluation of intelligence and the degradation of their bodies, and I shudder to think that they are now raising grandchildren with zero moral character and no common sense.  Hello, class of 2018.

How easy it is to slip from year to year, sliding a few feet at a time down the slope to oblivion.  And how crushing it is to look back 82 years to see in one glance the height from which we have fallen.

I encourage you to get involved in the lives of several children and teach them these values mentioned by Owens.  We have a lot of ground to regain, and it's not going to happen through the schools or Hollywood.  You and I must influence and inspire these children, else the next Hitler will have it easy.

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