Signs of the Times

[General Smuts, in his rectorial address at St. Andrews University, as quoted in the Times, London, England]

We console ourselves with the truism that we are living in most interesting times, but the hard truth is that they are the most anxious and critical times which mankind has faced for many centuries. Speaking here today to you, the young people of this university, an old, hard-bitten campaigner like myself might be asked how I view the prospect before us, what message I have from my own experience, as one who has gone through the immense experience of our generation, to those who now stand on the threshold of this strange new world. . . .

There is nothing in the nature of things which is alien to what is best in us. There is no malign fatalism which makes fools of us in our dark striving towards the good. On the contrary, what is highest in us is deepest in the nature of things, and as virtue is its own reward so life carries its own sanctions and the guarantee of its own highest fulfillments and perfections. That is my ultimate credo; and it is not founded on hearsay, but on my firsthand experience in that cross section of the world which I have lived through. This is no doubt a slender basis of fact for so large a conclusion. But the final convictions are not inductions from experience, but insights into it. I remain at heart an optimist. . . .

January 5, 1935

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