YOUNG GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS: The courtesy of your admirable Superintendent forbids a possible breach in an ancient custom, and lays upon me, as the representative, for the moment, of the Board of Visitors, the pleasant duty of tendering to you their congratulations on the close of your academic career, and your auspicious future.
The people of this country have a heavy stake in the prosperity of this institution. They recognize it as the very fountain of their security in war, and the origin of some of their best methods of education. And upon education in colleges and common schools the pillars of the State assuredly rest.
To participants and to bystanders, this ceremony of graduation is as interesting and as exciting as if this were the first, instead of the seventy-fifth occurrence. Every such occasion is clothed with the splendor of perpetual youth. The secret of your future success lies in the impossibility of your entering into the experience of your predecessors. Every man's life begins with the rising sun. The world would soon become a frozen waste but for the inextinguishable ardor of youth, which believes success still to be possible where every attempt has failed.
That courage which avoids rashness by the restraints of knowledge, and dishonor by the fear of God, is the best hope of the world.
History is not life, but its reflection.
The great armies of modern times which have won immortal victories have been composed of young men who have turned into historic acts the strategy of experienced commanders.
To bystanders, for the same and other reasons, the occasion is profoundly interesting.
For educated men who are true to honor and to righteousness, the world anxiously waits; but an educated man who is false, the world has good reason to dread. The best thing that can be said of this Academy, with its long roll of heroes in war and in peace, is, that every year the conviction increases among the people of the United States, that its graduates are men who will maintain, at all hazards, the simple virtues of a robust manhood--like Chaucer's young Knight, courteous, lowly, and serviceable.