Speech Delivered by My Father at Central High School Graduation, Paris, Tennessee
Graduating Speech, May 16, 1947
Salutatorian Speech- Charles E. Jenkins, Sr.
Superintendent, Members of the Board of Education, Teachers, Friends, Parents and Schoolmates:
The great English Dramatist, William Shakespeare, has said, “All is well that ends well”, but in my case I think that phrase should be amended to read, “All is well that begins well.” For, in my position as salutatorian of the Class of 1947, there rest upon my shoulders the important task of opening the evenings program, and extending to you a hearty welcome.
We are sitting here tonight in all our splendor because we had the right beginning. We are basking under the sunlight of your approval because we had parents who realized the importance of and the value of sending us to school every day that we might not fall behind. We are wearing the crown of graduation tonight because we had teachers who cherished the principle of thoroughness. In other words, we started well, and step by step we advanced just as the child in the nursery grew stronger with practice, so did we. We found the steps steeper but we were prepared now by experience and determination.
We forged ahead, won our point of vantage and now, we, the graduating Class of 1947, are about to step out upon the highway of life to face the dawn of a new era – – -the Atomic Age – – – the Rising Sun.. Yes, YOUTH FACES THE RISING SUN.”
Since time immemorial men have been making discoveries and seeking things beyond the rising sun, because man has been the bond servant of time in all that he did or talked , he found himself faced in by certain limitation set by the sunrise and sunset; the surge and flow of the tides; the waxing and waning of the moon; the coming and going of the seasons. Yet, as he gazed upon the rising sun he must have seen in it not merely a measure of time, but a symbol – – -a symbol of the dawn of freedom. Necessity soon taught man to overcome his limitation. The dawn of liberty
made man conscious of his personal rights.
The youth of today are no less worthy of advancement of this age, than our fathers were in their day. Our day, affords the greatest opportunity of any day or age in the history of the world, because of the many facilities we have at hand.This is a day of one world, whereas, our fathers thought in terms of the east and west and the north and south.
There was a time when sticks and guns were our implements of war, such was the world in which our fathers lived. The educated youth of today are facing an atomic age, an age that shatters the dreams and vision of our fathers. The responsibilities that rest upon our shoulders are greater than any in the history of America. The youth of today must learn to live together in a world of science or be blown into oblivion. This age which we are facing requires God, the Supreme Being; Brotherhood; Religion, the system of faith or worship and above all common sense application of these requirements.
The day for schooners and steam engines is about gone. We bear a magic psychological atomic age that must not only be matched with education but with experience. The youth if thoroughly educated must be made to bear the yoke by learning from experience how to perform the common everyday duties of life. We stand today between the old and the new with our backs on the old and our face on the new. Our character is being formed;our destiny is being fixed; and our youthful bodies reflect the sacrifices and unrelenting toil of those who have pushed far enough into the height and warmth of the rising sun of tomorrow’s opportunities. The educated youth face tomorrow unafraid, uncompromisingly and strong in his volition.
We have what our fathers had, “God”, and because of the atomical storm and anguish, we will not loose our grip and let go. We shall face tomorrow with confidence of victory. our fathers parted the murky waters of the Atlantic and gave us the land of the free and the home of the brave. They tunneled the mountains; they fell the forests; they spent restless nights to ransack disease and alleviate human suffering; they built highways upon which the merry motorman rides on to fame and prognostication. Why should we be afraid the educated youth of today? We shall take the Atomic bomb and instead of blowing cities into cinders, we shall do as our fathers did, alleviate human suffering.
Afraid! Afraid! Afraid! No! a thousand times no. We face the future with keen anticipation and high prospects of all that the future holds, for we are still with “God”; the master of our fate; the captain of our soul.
Charles E. Jenkins, Sr.