After-Dinner And Other Occasional Speaking. Continued
- General J. B. Gordon, C. S. A.
Let me ask you to imagine that the contest, in which the United States asserted their independence of Great Britain, had been unsuccessful; that our armies, through treason or a league of tyrants against us, had been broken and scattered; that the great men who led them, and who swayed our councils - our Washington, our Franklin, and the venerable president of the American Congress - had been driven forth as exiles. If there had existed at that day, in any part of the civilized world, a powerful Republic, with institutions resting on the same foundations of liberty which our own countrymen sought to establish, would there have been in that Republic any hospitality too cordial, any sympathy too deep, any zeal for their glorious but unfortunate cause, too fervent or too active to be shown toward these illustrious fugitives? Gentlemen, the case I have supposed is before you. The Washingtons, the Franklins, the Hancocks of Hungary, driven out by a far worse tyranny than was ever endured here, are wanderers in foreign lands. Some of them have sought a refuge in our country - one sits with this company our guest to-night - and we must measure the duty we owe them by the same standard which we would have had history apply, if our ancestors had met with a fate like theirs.
- William Cullen Bryant.
The Influence Of Universities
When the excitement of party warfare presses dangerously near our national safeguards, I would have the intelligent conservatism of our universities and colleges warn the contestants in impressive tones against the perils of a breach impossible to repair.
When popular discontent and passion are stimulated by the arts of designing partisans to a pitch perilously near to class hatred or sectional anger, I would have our universities and colleges sound the alarm in the name of American brotherhood and fraternal dependence.
When the attempt is made to delude the people into the belief that their suffrages can change the operation of national laws, I would have our universities and colleges proclaim that those laws are inexorable and far removed from political control.
When selfish interest seeks undue private benefits through governmental aid, and public places are claimed as rewards of party service, I would have our universities and colleges persuade the people to a relinquishment of the demand for party spoils and exhort them to a disinterested and patriotic love of their government, whose unperverted operation secures to every citizen his just share of the safety and prosperity it holds in store for all.
I would have the influence of these institutions on the side of religion and morality. I would have those they send out among the people not ashamed to acknowledge God, and to proclaim His interposition in the affairs of men, enjoining such obedience to His laws as makes manifest the path of national perpetuity and prosperity - Grover Cleveland, delivered at the Princeton Sesqui-Centennial, 1896.
Great in life, he was surpassingly great in death. For no cause, in the very frenzy of wantonness and wickedness, by the red hand of murder, he was thrust from the full tide of this world's interest, from its hopes, its aspirations, its victories, into the visible presence of death - and he did not quail. Not alone for the one short moment in which, stunned and dazed, he could give up life, hardly aware of its relinquishment, but through days of deadly languor, through weeks of agony, that was not less agony because silently borne, with clear sight and calm courage, he looked into his open grave. What blight and ruin met his anguished eyes, whose lips may tell - what brilliant, broken plans, what baffled, high ambitions, what sundering of strong, warm, manhood's friendships, what bitter rending of sweet household ties! Behind him a proud, expectant nation, a great host of sustaining friends, a cherished and happy mother, wearing the full rich honors of her early toil and tears; the wife of his youth, whose whole life lay in his; the little boys not yet emerged from childhood's day of frolic; the fair young daughter; the sturdy sons just springing into closest companionship, claiming every day and every day rewarding a father's love and care; and in his heart the eager, rejoicing power to meet all demand. Before him, desolation and great darkness! And his soul was not shaken. His countrymen were thrilled with instant, profound and universal sympathy. Masterful in his mortal weakness, he became the centre of a nation's love, enshrined in the prayers of a world. But all the love and all the sympathy could not share with him his suffering. He trod the wine press alone. With unfaltering front he faced death. With unfailing tenderness he took leave of life. Above the demoniac hiss of the assassin's bullet he heard the voice of God. With simple resignation he bowed to the Divine decree. - James G. Blaine., delivered at the memorial service held by the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives.
At the bottom of all true heroism is unselfishness. Its crowning expression is sacrifice. The world is suspicious of vaunted heroes. But when the true hero has come, and we know that here he is in verity, ah! how the hearts of men leap forth to greet him! how worshipfully we welcome God's noblest work - the strong, honest, fearless, upright man. In Robert Lee was such a hero vouchsafed to us and to mankind, and whether we behold him declining command of the federal army to fight the battles and share the miseries of his own people; proclaiming on the heights in front of Gettysburg that the fault of the disaster was his own; leading charges in the crisis of combat; walking under the yoke of conquest without a murmur of complaint; or refusing fortune to come here and train the youth of his country in the paths of duty, - he is ever the same meek, grand, self-sacrificing spirit. Here he exhibited qualities not less worthy and heroic than those displayed on the broad and open theater of conflict, when the eyes of nations watched his every action. Here in the calm repose of civil and domestic duties, and in the trying routine of incessant tasks, he lived a life as high as When, day by day, he marshalled and led his thin and wasting lines, and slept by night upon the field that was to be drenched again in blood upon the morrow. And now he has vanished from us forever. And is this all that is left of him - this handful of dust beneath the marble stone? No! the ages answer as they rise from the gulfs of time, where lie the wrecks of kingdoms and estates, holding up in their hands as their only trophies, the names of those who have wrought for man in the love and fear of God, and in love-unfearing for their fellow-men. No! the present answers, bending by his tomb. No! the future answers as the breath of the morning fans its radiant brow, and its soul drinks in sweet inspirations from the lovely life of Lee. No! methinks the very heavens echo, as melt into their depths the words of reverent love that voice the hearts of men to the tingling stars.
Come we then to-day in loyal love to sanctify our memories, to purify our hopes, to make strong all good intent by communion with the spirit of him who, being dead yet speaketh. Come, child, in thy spotless innocence; come, woman, in thy purity; come, youth, in thy prime; come, manhood, in thy strength; come, age, in thy ripe wisdom; come, citizen; come, soldier; let us strew the roses and lilies of June around his tomb, for he, like them, exhaled in his life Nature's beneficence, and the grave has consecrated that life and given it to us all; let us crown his tomb with the oak, the emblem of his strength, and with the laurel, the emblem of his glory, and let these guns, whose voices he knew of old, awake the echoes of the mountains, that nature herself may join in his solemn requiem. Come, for here he rests, and
On this green bank, by this fair stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may his deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
- John Warwick Daniel, on the unveiling of Lee's statue at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 1883.
Questions And Exercises
1. Why should humor find a place in after-dinner speaking?
2. Briefly give your impressions of any notable after-dinner address that you have heard.
3.. Briefly outline an imaginary occasion of any sort and give three subjects appropriate for addresses.
4. Deliver one such address, not to exceed ten minutes in length.
5. What proportion of emotional ideas do you find in the extracts given in this chapter?
6. Humor was used in some of the foregoing addresses - in which others would it have been inappropriate?
7. Prepare and deliver an after-dinner speech suited to one of the following occasions, and be sure to use humor: A lodge banquet. A political party dinner. A church men's club dinner. A civic association banquet. A banquet in honor of a celebrity. A woman's club annual dinner. A business men's association dinner. A manufacturers' club dinner. An alumni banquet. An old home week barbecue.