Governor Earle, President Beury, friends of Temple University, and, I am glad to be able to say now, my fellow alumni:
I have just had bestowed upon me a twofold honor. I am honored in having been made an alumnus of Temple University; and I am honored in having had conferred upon me for the first time the Degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence.
It is a happy coincidence that we should meet together to pay our respects to the cause of education not only on the birthday of the Father of this Nation, but also in the halls of a very great institution that is bringing true education into thousands of homes throughout the country. I have always felt certain that in Washington’s wise and kindly way, he deeply appreciated the importance of education in a Republic–I might say throughout a Republic–and also the responsibility of that thing known as Government to promote education. Let this simple statement stand by itself without the proof of quotation. I say this lest, in this year of 1936, if I quoted excerpts from the somewhat voluminous writings and messages of the first President of the United States, some captious critic might search the Library of Congress to prove by other quotations that George Washington was in favor of just the opposite! Therefore, on this anniversary of his birth I propose to break a century-old precedent. I shall not quote from George Washington on his birthday.
More than that, and breaking precedent once more, I do not intend to commence any sentence with these words–“If George Washington had been alive today” or “If Thomas Jefferson” or “If Alexander Hamilton” or “If Abraham Lincoln had been alive today–beyond peradventure, beyond a doubt or perhaps the other way around, etc., etc., etc.”
Suffice it to say this: What President Washington pointed out on many occasions and in many practical ways was that a broad and cosmopolitan education in every stratum of society is a necessary factor in any free Nation governed through a democratic system. Strides toward that fundamental objective were great, as we know, in the first two or three generations of the Republic, and yet you and I can assert that the greatest development of general education has occurred in the past half century, indeed, within the lives of a great many of those of us who are here today.
As literacy increases people become aware of the fact that Government and society form essentially a cooperative relationship among citizens and the selected representatives of those citizens.