The College Man
By Albert J. Beveridge
From ‘The Young Man And The World”
Go to college. Go to the best possible college for you. Patiently hold on through the sternest discipline you can stand, until the course is completed. It will not be fatal to your success if you do not go; but you will be better prepared o meet the world if you do go. I do not mean that your mind will be stored with much more knowledge than will be useful to you if you go through college than if you do not go through college. The college man who has not thrown away his college life comes from the training of his alma mater with a mind as highly disciplined as are the wrist and eye of the skilled swordsman.
The spirit with which you enter college is just as important as going to college at all. It is more important. For if a man has the spirit that will get for him all that a college education has to give, it will also make him triumph in a contest with the world, even if he does not get his college education. It will only be a little harder for him, that is all.
This one word of definite helpfulness on this subject: Do not choose any particular college because you want to be known as a Yale man, a Harvard man, a Princeton man, or any other kind of man. Remember that the world cares less than the snap of its fingers what particular college man you are. What the world cares about is that you should be a man — a real man.
Nobody cares what college you went to. Nobody cares whether you went to college at all. But everybody cares whether you are a real force among men; and everybody cares more and more as it becomes clearer and clearer that you are not only a force, but a trained, disciplined force. That is why you ought to go to college — to be a trained, disciplined force. But how and where you got your power — the world of men and women is far too interested in itself to be interested in that.
When you do finally go to college, take care of yourself like a man. I am told that there are men in college who have valets to attend them, their rooms, and their clothes. Think of that!
While I am on this subject I might as well say another thing: Do not think that you have got to smoke in order to be or look like a college man. A pipe in the mouth of a youth does not make him look like a college man, or any other kind of man. It merely makes him look absurd, that is all. And if there is ever a time on earth when you do not need the stimulus of tobacco, it is while you are in college. Tobacco is a wonderful vegetable. It is, I believe, the only substance in the world which at the same time is a stimulate and a narcotic, a heart excitant and a nerve sedative. Very well. You are too young yet to need a heart stimulant, too young to need anything to quiet your nerves. If at your tender age your nerves are so inflamed that they must be soothed, and if at the very sunrise of your life your heart is so feeble that it must be forced with any stimulant, you had better quite college. College is no place for you if you are such a decadent; yes, and you will find the world a good deal harder place than college. And, of course, you will not disgrace yourself by drinking. There is absolutely nothing in it. If you have your fling at it you will learn how surely Intoxication’s apples of gold turn to the bitterest ashes in eating. But when you do find how fruitless of everything but regrets dissipation is, be honest with yourself and quit it. Be honest with the mother who is at home praying for you, and quit it.
In a word, be a man; and you will be very little of a man, very little indeed, if you have got to resort to tobacco and liquor to add to your blood and conduct that touch of devilishness which you may think is a necessary part of manliness. Indeed, between fifteen and thirty years of age your veins will be quite full enough of the untamed and desperate. I do not object in the least to this wild mustang period in a man’s life.
Is a fellow to have no fun? you will say. Of course, have all the fun you want; the more the better. But if you need stimulant and tobacco to key you up to the capacity for fun, you are a solemn person indeed.
One thing I must warn you against, and warn you supremely: the critical habit of mind which somehow or other a college education does seem to produce. This is especially true of the great universities of our East.