Speech at Banquet to Director General Davis.
But few men are so fortunate as to have their names associated with great affairs. But few men are ever blessed with an opportunity to render their country or their age a service that will hand their names down to posterity. The temple of fame is so carefully guarded by the genii that but few mortals ever enter it.
Millions of men with high ambition, with patriotic fervor and noble sacrifice, have had to content themselves with the approval of their own conscience and the good opinions of their neighbors. They have died in the arms of their families and passed to the shadows beyond without having left even a foot-print on the path they trod.
The man in whose honor we have met to-night has been more highly favored. The fates seem to smile on him; again and again have they beckoned him onward and upward. He served his country as a soldier; he served it in the national halls of legislation; he served it in a position of great financial responsibility, and then the fates beckoned him still higher, and he served his country as Director General of the great Columbian Exposition. Most fortunate man, to have his name prominently associated with the building, the making and the managing of that wonderful World's Fair! Most fortunate are all of the great men whose genius and creative force made and managed that marvel of the age which has placed a wreath of immortality on the brow of this century, and which will emblazon the names of its creators in the temple of achievement, where they will be honored by the generations to come as these read of, talk of, and wonder over the glories of the famous White City.
401Gentlemen of the Foreign Commission, in honoring this distinguished citizen of Illinois you honor our State and honor our people, and you place our State and our people under still greater obligations to you and to your sovereigns and your people.
As I have not heretofore had an opportunity of conveying to you the gratitude of this great State, permit me now to say that in coming as you did from all countries and bringing us the best wishes of your sovereigns, and the highest and best productions of the genius and the industry of your people, you have done us an honor which our people highly appreciate and will take pride in repaying if ever an opportunity offers.
But more than this, by the appreciative and friendly spirit you have shown while with us, by your generous kindness and obliging conduct, you have won for yourselves, your sovereigns and your people, our love and affection.
The exposition has taught its lesson to you and to us. It has pointed the tendency of civilization: it has shown the possibilities of human achievement; it has brought all people nearer together and it has most effectively taught the gospel of peace by showing that peace alone creates. The arm of war destroys, while the world halts; but the hand of peace builds and leads the world upward.
Again, in my view, the exposition has taught that freedom is the great creative and moving force of all progress and of all achievement. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of action for the honest man give activity to hand and to brain, and set in motion all the agencies that advance civilization and move the world.
I believe that the country which gives the greatest freedom to its citizens will have the advantage in the future, as it has had in the past, in the race between nations for industrial activity and general development.
You are about to take your departure. You will return to your countries to wrestle with the great national problems which confront you there, while we struggle with those which confront us here. With many of you it is the question of militarism; the question of saving the mental and physical energy which it destroys and of avoiding the great burdens it entails.
With us the great problem is that of industrial and commercial development. Some of us believe that herein we have an advantage because, not having to maintain a large military establishment, we can direct all this energy and force into the channels of industry and material and intellectual development, and that, having this advantage,
402we should in time outstrip those nations that are not so fortunate.
But however this may be, let me assure you of our good-will, and say to you that here in Illinois you will ever be kindly remembered, and here you will always find a welcome. Our benedictions will follow you across the seas to your homes in Europe and the Orient, and our prayers will bespeak for you the choicest blessings of Divine Providence.