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CHARACTER, OR THE MAKING OF
EDWARD WARD CARMACK
See page 18.
It is in childhood and youth that character is formed. The minds of the young are plastic and are readily molded by the hand of circumstance into a vessel of honor or a vessel of dishonor.
Youth is the new material of manhood. The old man is simply what he began to be in his youth. Manhood can only mature, and age can but harvest the seed that are sown in the spring of life. It is in youth that the work must be done, and the influences be brought to bear that are to mold the character and shape the destiny of the man.
We think that when we have quit the school-room we have quit school. In reality our school-days have just begun. Though we go forth from one of the great schools of the land we have but passed through a preparatory school, and are about to enter as a freshman that great university from which we will be graduated at the grave. We have but exchanged kind and patient instructors for one whose tasks are heavy, whose rule is harsh, who will show but little indulgence for unlearned
lessons or the broken rule. The world is now our school, experience our teacher and life our lesson.
The education we have received at school is but a too!, an implement, and we have to acquire skill in the use of it.
The knowing that is not translated into doing, is a tree that bears foliage but no fruit. A blacksmith who can shoe a horse well is better educated than the man who can read Greek but cannot make a living for himself or lend a helping hand to his neighbor.
The strongest and most disciplined mind cannot of itself bring honor or happiness; cannot make a good and useful citizen, or entitle one to the respect of his fellowman. The great thing is character; and the greatest men whose names are honored and revered by all mankind were great, not because they were mighty in intellect, but because they were grand in soul.
England has produced greater intellects than Alfred, but she has never produced a greater man.
America has produced abler men perhaps than Washington, but she has never produced a more devoted and self-sacrificing patriot. Great as was our own Robert E. Lee as a commander, he was incomparably greater as a man.
We should not be satisfied to achieve a mere reputation without achieving the character to sustain it. The mere love of reputation or self advertisement is one of the deadliest forms of vanity that ever cursed the children of men.
So by striving by all honorable means to win and retain the good opinion of all good people, remember that a man's reputation is only what men think him to be, his character what God knows him to be.
No man is so sure to lose the respect of all good people as the man who has a morbid craving for popularity or a morbid dread of unpopularity. We cannot always tell what public opinion is; we never can tell what it is going to be. The wiser plan as well as the most honest plan is carefully and conscientiously to form an opinion of our own, then have the manhood to stand by it, even though we stand solitary and alone.
We are prone to make an ideal of mere intellectuality and worship it as a God. We are in the habit of saying that ignorance is the mother of vice, though all history and every day experience teach us that mere culture is not culture of the heart. We know that nations have risen to the noblest heights of intellectual greatness while stooping to the lowest depths of moral decay. What was Greece in the time of Aristotle and Demosthenes? Or Rome in the time of Cicero and Virgil?
“But how," you ask, “can a man form his character?” The rule is simplicity itself though the application be difficult. A man may form his character to a great extent through the sheer force of habit. An act often repeated hardens into a habit, a habit long continued petrifies into character.
As a bough that has once been bent will bend the more easily in the same direction when subjected to the same force, so the soul that has yielded to the seductions of evil loses something of its power of resistance. On the other hand every successful resistance of temptation strengthens the man and weakens the power of evil.
Human nature is not vile except to the vile. To the mean man this is indeed a mean world; to the selfish man it turns its selfish side; the faithless and incon
stant man finds faithless and inconstant friends. The world shows itself to every man just as he shows himself to the world. It is a mighty mirror in which every one sees his own image and calls it man.
The greatest single influence in the formation of a man's character is the influence of a woman.
It has been said that the world knows nothing of its greatest men; it surely knows nothing of its greatest women. They are around and about us in cottage and in hovel where the lean hand of poverty breaks the ashen crust, and in the stateliest homes of luxury and pride. There are among the humblest women in the humblest homes examples of a diviner heroism than that of Joan of Arc; heroines all unconscious of their heroism who have walked with bleeding feet the stony paths of martyrdom, unseen, unknown, and unpraised of men.
It is not the throned and sceptered king, it is not the wily statesman with his midnight lamp, it is not the warrior grimed with smoke and stained with blood; it is the queen of the home who rules the destinies of manhood. There is the center from which radiates the light that never fails. The sweetest wisdom of this world is a woman's counsel, and the purest altar from which human prayers ever went to heaven is a mother's knee.
JAMES FRANCIS DWYER
James Francis Dwyer, author, journalist and traveler, was born
in Australia, but came to America in 1907.
The President of the United States was speaking. His audience comprised two thousand foreign-born people who had just been admitted to citizenship. They listened intently, their faces aglow with the light of a new-born patriotism.
One little woman, sitting immediately in front of the President, held the hand of a big, muscular man who was looking at the speaker with great blue eyes, and eyes of a dreamer.
The President's words came clear and distinct:
“You were drawn across the ocean by some beckoning finger of hope, by some belief, by some vision of new kind of justice, but some expectation of a new kind of life. You dream dreams of this country. A man enriches the country to which he brings dreams, and you, who have brought them, have enriched America."
As the President spoke the big man's eyes seemed look through the Presidential rostrum, out over the leagues of space to the little Russian village on the