Signs of the Times

[From the baccalaureate sermon by Dr. A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University, as quoted in the Boston Post, Massachusetts]

Mark this—that just as every instance of self-deception, every attempt to excuse conduct less than the best, tends in so far to dull the vision, so every action that is done because a clear light shows that it is the right thing to do, tends to increase that light, to sharpen acuteness of perception between right and wrong, and thereby to strengthen character. It is thus that men grow upward into finer character and live on a higher and better plane. There are many men, of no conspicuous natural talents or force, who by continual exercise of the conscience, have developed a moral power that has made them leaders in their community and even figures of national importance. The advice of such men, with their clear, cloudless, moral vision, is sought by people perplexed about personal and public questions, and their influence becomes greater than that of many contemporaries born with far greater native ability. Moral standard in a community depends upon the singleness of eye of the citizens; and the opinion of every man who has clear standards and holds them fearlessly, counts far more than is generally perceived, because the sight of many is dim and their moral courage small. The man who never lets his clearness of vision fade is safe himself, and, though he know it not, is for others a refuge and a beacon light.

September 8, 1928

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