A rare combination of natural qualities causes men to develop greatness. Education and training make them greater; nevertheless, men with fewer natural qualities often succeed, with education and training, when those more richly endowed fail to reach the higher places, and you have doubtless witnessed that in your experience here.
A man in a great place in modern times is not respectable without education. That man must be a God to command modern armies successfully without it; yet war is a great school; men learn quickly by experience, and in long wars there will be found men of natural abilities who will appear at the front. It will be found, however, in the long run, that the man who has prepared himself to make the best use of his natural talents will win in the race, if he has the opportunity, while others of equal or greater natural parts may fail from lack of that mental and moral training necessary to win the respect of those they command.
Towards the close of our civil war, men came to the front rank who entered the service as privates. They were men of strong natural qualities. How far the best of them would have proceeded had the war continued, cannot be told; but it may be safely assumed that if they possessed the moral qualities and the education necessary to command the respect of the armies with which they were associated, they would have won the highest honors; and yet our war lasted but four years.
Some of them had the moral qualities, some the education; and I have known of those men who thus came forward, some who would certainly have reached the highest places in a long race, had they had the training given to you.
War gives numerous opportunities for distinction, and especially to those who in peace have demonstrated that they would be available in war; and soldiers can win distinction in both peace and war if they will but seize their opportunities.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to victory."
Great responsibilities in time of danger are not given to the ignorant, the slothful, or to those who have impaired their powers of mind or body by the indulgences of life. In times of danger favorites are discarded. When work is to be done, deeds to be performed, men of action have their opportunities and fail not to seize them. It is the interest of commanders that such men should be selected for service, when success or failure may follow, according to the wisdom of the selection, as the instrument may be--sharp or dull, good or bad.
I would say to you, lead active, temperate, studious lives, develop your physical qualities as well as mental. Regard the education acquired here as but rudimentary; pursue your studies in the line of your profession and as well in such other branches of science or language as may best accord with your inclinations. It will make you greater in your profession and cause you to be independent of it. The latter is but prudent in these practical days.