Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be something suitable to youth—something instructive, or something in the nature of good advice. Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is in one’s tender early years that such things will best take root and be most enduring.
Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.
Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any, also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offends you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to. Yes, always avoid violence, in this age of charity and kindliness.
Go to bed early, get up early—this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another. But a lark is really the best thing to get up with. It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark, and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time—it’s no trick at all.
Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you aresure to get caught. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy lie. The young ought to be sensible in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision. Think what tedious years of study, thought, practice, and experience! For the history of our race, evidences are sewn thick that a truth is not hard to kill, and that a lie well told is immortal. There is in Boston a monument of the man who discovered anesthesia; many people are aware, in these latter days, that that man didn’t discover it at all, but stole the discovery from another man. Ah no, my hearers, the monument is made of hardy material, but the lie it tells will outlast it a million years.
I have said enough. I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you, and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding.