This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
Ladies and Gentlemen: If there is one comfort greater than another, to a person who has nothing to say at such a time as this, it is the realization of the fact that having nothing to say, he can announce that fact, take his seat and enjoy the remainder of the programme unmolested.
I can truly say that I have not burdened my mind with the smallest idea to present you on this occasion. I have not taxed my memory with anything, and hence I have no taxes to pay. I comply simply because you call, and, whatever one's calling may be, it is his duty to respond, especially if - he cannot escape. Of course, if I had had about a week of preparation, 1 might now arise and make you a dashing extemporaneous speech. The subjects are upon every side that would inspire me. It would be easy to dwell upon the wealth of beauty that we see around us. I should like to speak of the flashing wit, the brilliant oratory and the burning; eloquence to which we have listened. This elegant repast, this genial gathering, the importance of this reunion, the glorious benefit resulting from this meeting - all these - any one of them - afford themes for a speech. Of course there are a thousand subjects incidental to this gathering that suggest a speech, but should I enter upon a consideration of any one of them I would regret it, and so would you.
It is an old, trite saying that the time to sit down is when the audience wants you to speak longer. In my case, if I wanted to speak longer you would want me to sit down. I will therefore retire, humbly hoping that this speech will not be misreported and that when you want a brilliant speech you will always call upon me.
Delivered before a class graduating at college.
Mr. President and Fellow-Students: It has devolved upon me, as the senior member of the class of 1884, to give expression to a few thoughts appropriate to this occasion. I do so with a keen appreciation of the relations we have so long sustained with each other, the faculty of this college, and the world of affairs into which we are about to emerge, and with which we are henceforth to mingle, not knowing what is before us, but hoping in the ardor of young manhood for the best.
Fellow Students, we have been companions for four years - four years, to some of us, of diligent application to our studies; four years of light and shade to all of us; four years of social fellowship and pleasant recreation; four years of mental and physical improvement. We have sympathized with each other in troubles and sorrows; have lightened each other's hearts in times of sadness, and have enjoyed college-life in each other's society, I will venture to say, as well as any other class that ever graduated from these classic halls. We go hence with our diplomas, which the world looks upon as the keys that are to unlock the doors of science, art, literature, theology, physic and merchandi3e for us, and open the avenues of wealth and honor to us. We go hence, as we are, to the battle of life. What success we shall have, what victories we may win, the future alone can tell.
But we go forth with strong hope and abiding faith that all will be well with us if we perform our duty faithfully in whatever calling or sphere fate may assign us.
Where will fate or fortune place us in the great sea of the future? I see in imagination this class all scattered, many the heads of families, engaged in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and trade; others on the rough sea of political life, some of whom will doubtless reap honor in State and Congressional legislation, bestowing benefit upon their fellow-men, while they hold high and responsible positions in official life.
But as we go forth, each to fulfill his destiny, let us forget all our boyish prejudices, if any we have, against each other, and through our lives be helpful friends to each other as opportunities may offer. For myself, and I think I speak for all, these college friendships are too sacred to be lightly broken or forgotten, and in our farewells and final pressure of our hands together, let us renew the bonds which our fellowship in our Alma Mater has woven.
Mr. President and Professors - one and all - we go hence with the profoundest esteem for the wisdom, forbearance and uniform justice and kindness that you have ever manifested toward us within these walls. We have been often hasty, heedless of your feelings and our own best interests, and have at times caused you great annoyance by our boyish follies; but in all these things you have proven yourselves our true friends and mentors, and in our hearts we have cherished no malevolence, no hatred toward you. In whatever we have given you offense we would ask your forgiveness, and carry away with us a heartfelt gratitude for all the many favors we have received at your hands.
Fellow Students of the Freshmen and Sophomore classes, I take a restrospective view, as I look into your youthful faces, and I see this graduating class as it was four years ago, a handful of inexperienced, puzzled freshmen, the sport of the sophomores, and unheeded or plagued by the seniors. What we felt and endured then, half-discouraged by our outward circumstances and our inward fears, you now feel and endure; but look up, boys, look up! The freshmen will soon be sophomores, and the sophomores seniors; and the troubles of the present will fade away in the future like a morning dream. On your part you have youth, good intellects and capable teachers, and if you fail - and I do not believe you will - you will have only your want of assiduity to study to blame for it. The four years' course is not the bugbear that you fear it is, and its difficulties will dissolve before the energy and application that you (I am sure) are now determined to exercise. We leave you here to so maintain the honor of this institution that you may depart from it with its blessing.
The hour of parting draws nigh. In spite of hope and faith in the future, there is a tinge of sadness in the present, which I, for one, do not fear to cherish and confess, for it testifies to the genuineness of our human sympathy and heartfelt friendship. Farewell, and peace go with you all '