Detroit, MI Speech, 1896-10-18

Speech by William Jennings Bryan.

Speech by William Jennings Bryan
Sunday, October 18, 1896 at 9:30pm
Newsboys' Hall, Detroit, MI

Source: BRYAN WITH THE NEWSBOYS, Gives the Little Fellows Sound Advice Upon How to Shape Their Lives, Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition), Monday, October 19, 1896

"Boys, I did not come to make a speech tonight, because this is the day that I rest, and I have felt the need of having a day of rest recently more than ever before. But I came because I never like to decline an invitation to be present at any place where an endeavor is being made to do good. And I don't know of any work which is better than that work which is done for boys. We were all boys once—some of us not so very long ago—and when I see boys I am reminded of what one of our presidents, I think it was Garfield, said—that you could not tell what possibilities were buttoned up under the vest of a boy. When I think of the possibilities that lie before a boy in a country like this, I can appreciate any movement which has for its object the bettering of the condition of boys or giving them higher ideas in life, and the making of better men."


"Now we are not ourselves responsible for the surroundings of youth. We are born into this world and the surroundings meet us and to a certain extend they affect us. But beyond that we have much to do with shaping our own course. What we amount to in this world depends upon the ideas which we have. Some one has said that a person who aims at the stars will shoot higher, which simply means that those who have the highest purposes will accomplish most. A meeting of this kind, where they teach you patriotism, where they teach you regard for each other, respect for each other's rights, necessarily elevates your ideas, gives broader views of life, and those views will help you to accomplish more.

Now, in this country in which we live, boys are more blessed than in any other country on earth, because the boy in this country has everything open to him, and the boy in this country may accomplish more than he can in any other country, I am here simply to testify, by my presence, more than by my words, to the interest that I feel in organizations such as this. I care not under what auspices they are conducted. No good effort is ever lost, and if a kind word spoken to a boy, a kind hand given to a boy, gives him hope, makes him desire better things, starts him on an upward course, there is no measuring the influence that that kind word or kind act has. There is a song that they sing in Sunday school, 'Kind Words Can Never Die, Kind Deeds Can Never Die.'"


"Now, there are times when a human life, or many human lives, will depend upon the action of one person; there are times when the welfare of the community will depend on one person; there are times when the welfare of the nation will depend upon one person, and when you remember how influential one person may become in the destinies of the nation, how useful he may be to his fellow, to society, you can see that if a kind word or act should be the cause of getting that boy started right, lending him up to take advantage of his opportunities, what results may follow.

I want you to remember that no good ever comes to boys or men from doing wrong, and that right always pays. I know it is hard always to believe, but if you take a broad view of life and its possibilities, you will find that it always pays you to do what you believe is right. It is always necessary that you should try to find out what right is, and the education which you receive in the schools enables you to see things and understand things and then the desire to do the best thing leads you to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to you.

I notice the mottoes on the wall and mottoes from national songs. I want you to grow into larger boys, and into men, appreciating the advantages which your country affords, and then that each one of you shall have an ambition to make the most out of those advantages because, you know, if advantages come to persons and they do not use them, advantages might just as well not have come, and if a person desires to use advantages and they do not come, then he is helpless. But if, in a country like this, you have the advantages and then make the best of the opportunities, you can attain the highest form of citizenship."


"I feel interested in you boys who are starting out so young to make a living. Some of us, instead of having to depend on our own exertions, were carried forward by others. I am not sure that you who begin this life of independence and of necessary activity so early, have an advantage over us who did not. But whether you had the advantage or not, if you improve every opportunity that comes and let your motto be, treat every one as you would have that person treat you, and make the best opportunity of everything that comes within your reach, and do nothing that your conscience will condemn you for, when you get to be old men, you will be able to look back and be grateful to Colonel Butler and to those who are associated with him in this effort to give you high ideas, and to give you words of encouragement in the years of your youth. And unless I am mistaken, the older you grow the deeper will be your feeling of gratitude toward those who gave you this kindly assistance when you were boys.

I want you to remember this also: That you are not the only ones who are benefited by these things, because the creator has so arranged the things of this world that when we try to help others we help ourselves. Those who have tried to help you, those who have tried to do you good, find that they themselves are benefited by the operation. While they are trying to make your lives happier, their own lives are made happier.

If I can leave this idea with you I think that it may be of use to you: That the highest good that can come to you is from service, from doing something for others, and you will find among your playmates that the boy who does most for the boys around him is the boy who is liked the best and is the boy who enjoys himself most. When you come to me, no matter how old you get, you will find that the more good you do to others the more enjoyment you will get out of life yourselves; so that your meetings here with those who are in charge of the organization is of a double value. It blesses you and it helps them, and I am glad that you appreciate their efforts and that they enjoy what they are trying to do for you."

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha World-Herald (Morning Edition)
  • Published: Omaha, NE
  • Citation: 1
  • Date: October 18, 1896