Frances Barnes Bruce,

Graduation Speech,

Hanover College,

1945


The typescript version of this speech is available at the Duggan Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.). 

N.B. A few minor typographical errors were corrected for this digitized version of the speech.


I've never won $50 in an oratorical contest -- but even so, I know you'll forgive me if I use my notes -- and save myself a great deal of mental strain -- and you too, that is -- if you've anything like I am with a student chapel speaker -- I'm always scared to death they'll forget; consequently I hold my breath for 20 minutes and suffer in the worst way. However, I have everything I want to say all written out in front of me, so never fear.

I have been here for four years -- from 1941-1945 -- and I feel that our class has to make the most difficult farewell of any class ever to graduate from Hanover -- even the senior class that graduated during World War I. I must qualify this statement, I know, and I do it this way.

We feel that we are the ones who as fellow students brought you here to this particular college and kept you here. Therefore we owe you all the things you were promised that you'd find in college and so far we have failed in a great many ways. I am sure that in the view and the beauty of the campus, and in the spirit of friendliness and love, you have not been disappointed, but these are things of God and not of man -- consequently not of us. Although we had no control directly over the war still, being of man, we feel that we are responsible for all the things you've so far missed and that is why it is so difficult to say good-by and leave you. We have started something which we have failed to complete; and we are so anxious for you to know Hanover as it really is -- and to believe in it, and to stick it out until peace has returned, so that we may be able to realize that we have not failed and disappointed you, and that you love the real Hanover as truly as we do.

The first night I came to college before it all started -- then there were men all over the place -- and some girl said to me, would you like a date and I said sure, so she "fixed me up".  Quotes -- as easy as pie.  And so we were off. Being freshmen, we were rushed off our feet -- the sophomores entering then into the so-called Sophomore slump.  We got our green hats -- stood around at circle meetings while the varsity He-Men paddled the freshmen men, and stayed up all hours of the night to see what was going on at the Boys' Dorm -- we could hear all kinds of shouting and laughter, but we couldn't see a thing. The freshmen and sophomores chased each other all over the campus trying to clip one another's hair -- I knew one Phi Gam sophomore who had three freshmen tied in the basement of his fraternity house -- waiting for a pair of scissors.

The Headline in the first Triangle of the year was "Strong Panther Squad set for Miami" and in a box on the first page -- College Mixer Dance Saturday night 8:30 -- Woods Field House -- Duke Beardsley s Band. The new yell leaders were being chosen, play try-outs were being held, 33 members were listed for the college band and the Phi Delts were awarded the Homecoming decorations trophy.

But all was not going too smoothly. There was a misunderstanding between the faculty and students, and the students thought the faculty were going to curtail Friday night functions; so the student council took action, threatening to strike chapel if such a thing were done. However, it never did come to that, but everyone was certainly drawn to a high peak of excitement.

We continued on into the winter; the Betas had their Christmas tea, and the Sigma Chis had their dance, The Lambda Chis had open house with dancing and refreshments, and we passed through a wonderful year of football and basketball.

But we were beginning to feel the war; two Hanover men were in the service, and the little bits of wisdom such as "Nazi Bombs, blasting deep down into the earth, have revealed bits of the original Roman wall in Cripplegate and part of a Roman wall in Queen Victoria Street" were beginning to be slipped into the Triangle columns.

The war effects began to squeeze tighter and tighter around us, and we began to read the papers, listen to the radio, have every chapel speaker yell at us -- and I do mean yell -- how "complacent"  we were -- and couldn't we realize!   And of course we couldn't know just when we were going and what the end would be -- but we did try to do the best we could, and to get away from a feeling of self pity. We tried to treat the whole thing lightly -- we tried to work out the philosophy "Next time you feel the world is treating you like a stepmother treats a kid's dog, take a new hitch in your belt and try to imagine how a barber feels when he finds himself in an Alaskan mining camp  and that'll make you grin all over your dirty face."

This philosophy worked a while, but it wasn't lasting. The whole thing was too big  and we were much too close to it all -- even if the chapel speakers didn't think so -- we learned then how to really pray, how to love peace end freedom. and how to hope. We knew how futile it was to ask for personal privileges -- all we asked for was strength and courage. Courage to face the future with the assurance that life as we live and love it shall not sink into an abyss of a new dark age. Courage to believe and trust with all our hearts in those who lead us in this dim hour of humanity and civilization -- courage to do each day the task required of us, even forgetting that urge to "forget it all, for nothing matters anymore". Courage to face induction into the armed forces, requiring of us as it sometimes does, sacrifice of all our hopes and ambitions. Courage to continue the path of higher learning if within our power to do so, ever believing that our duty lies in the inevitable peace which shall follow surely as day the night.

So now we'll leave you to try to continue on as we have done and to have undying faith and hope for as Mr. Grogan said in The Human Comedy --

Quotation

Frances Barnes Bruce



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