President Beury, your Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
During the long period of time that I have been with
Helen Keller, I have been present, and taken part in many and
diverse exercises. May I say, this is the most embarrassing
ceremony I have ever attended. Nevertheless, I am glad to be here,
and I sincerely appreciate the distinguished honor conferred upon
me by Temple University. It is not necessary to thank you, words
would not deliver my feeling anyway. Yes, I am proud, and very
I wish to say a word this morning on education in the light of
present-day knowledge and need.
Certain periods in history suddenly lift humanity to an observation
point where a clear light falls upon a world previously dark.
Everything seems strangely different. Familiar ideas put on new
garments and parade before us. Scholars and thinkers scrutinize
events with a new intensity to learn their meaning, and the people
look for a sign, a miracle.
I believe we are living in the beginning of such a renaissance.
The creative achievement of three men, Lenin, Gandhi and Einstein,
Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry, the cry of the
human spirit to be free.
This aspiration is basic in present-day thought. It is manifesting
itself in many ways and many places against great opposition.
The Russian Revolution is the most disturbing manifestation of the
new spirit that has come into the world, and by far the most
hopeful; for, no matter how mistaken Communist ideas may be, the
experience and knowledge gained by trying them out have given a
tremendous impetus to thought and imagination. And, whatever the
outcome of the experiment, it is inspiring to see the youth of
Russia working together to raise themselves from the level of
beasts of burden into an atmosphere of investigation and discovery.
Surely, the greatest social experiment in history should arouse the
profoundest interest in every one who is trying to understand
economics, industry and politics.
The Great War proved how confused the world is on these vital
questions, and depression is proving it again. We have no firm
hold on any knowledge or philosophy that can lift us out of our
difficulties. And, what is more discouraging, we fail to recognize
the gravity of the situation. We are afraid of ideas, of
experimenting, of change. We shrink from thinking a problem
through to a logical conclusion. We imagine that we want to escape
our selfish and commonplace existence, but we cling desperately to
our chains. Our material eye cannot see that a stupid chauvinism
is driving us from one noisy, distructive [sic], futile agitation to
The immediate future is going to be tragic for all of us, unless we
find a way of making the vast educational resources of this country
serve the true purpose of education, truth and justice.
When I was assembling my ideas for this talk, I happened to read in
the "New York Times" an interview with Sir Norman Angell. He
expresses so forcefully what I am trying to say, I shall quote him.
"What is principally wrong with the world is that education as now
ordered does not educate, does not include the teaching of the
fundamental meaning of modern society. Children are not well
taught. They are told about hatchets and cherry-trees and a king
who ran away and let the cakes burn, but they are not told what the
money in their pockets means, what isolation of nations and
armaments mean, or the rest of the unseen ideas which cause wars
Sir Norman Angell is right. The wrong things are predominantly
stressed in the schools—things remote from the student's
experience and need.
Education in the light of present-day knowledge and need calls for
some spirited and creative innovations both in the substance and
the purpose of current pedagogy. A strenuous effort must be made
to train young people to think for themselves and take independent
charge of their lives. Only when we have worked purposefully and
long on a problem that interests us, and in hope and in despair
wrestled with it in silence and alone relying on our own unshaken
will—only then have we achieved education.
May I express the hope that Temple University will continue to
carry forward the standard of progressive education in the spirit
of her noble founder, Dr. Conwell, that the teachers and students
will always keep the consciousness that they serve their country
best when they maintain its unity with the rest of the world and
with the highest intuitions of mankind.
Anne Sullivan Macy.
Temple University, Philadelphia.
February 15, 1932