Words that Inspire Me
Friends, all who know me know the magic sway words hold over me. If I find something that inspires me, I stick to it neurotically and never let anyone around me forget it. I have a variety of inspirations- from the Book of Sirach to Odysseus and Aeneas, to Disney’s Captain Shang, to the parable of the chariot, to the exhortations of Theodore Roosevelt, and I have recorded many on this blog.
But there is a virtue in conciseness, not least because it makes such glorious passages more easily memorizable. And there are a few passages that have inspired me more than any others. I have copied them in a little book I carry around in my satchel, and I will republish them here in case I lose the book in some terrible accident. These six passages, taken together- manifestos and exhortations, mostly- better define my values and beliefs (though not necessarily my worldview or cultural bias) than any poor words I have composed on my own. The two brief original statements of mine at the end- a statement of principles and a statement of purpose- are my feeble attempt to consolidate the wisdom of the immortalized words I admire, a feeble attempt I live by.
There is still much space in my little book, and eventually I may copy the best passages of Sirach, Homer, Virgil, Donny Osmond, Brett McKay, and Theodore Roosevelt into it. Perhaps I will include my quest, “Finding George Washington,” in time.
But for now, I will merely link some of those documents to this compendium, and copy the six passages and two statements here. Happy reading, dear readers, and if you don’t know me well, perhaps this will help you understand me.
Excerpts From the Eagle Charge
The Boy Scouts of all nations constitute one of the most wholesome and significant movements in the history of the world, and you have been counted worthy of its highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America.
All who know you rejoice in your achievement. Your position, as you well know, is one of honor and responsibility. You are a marked man. As an Eagle Scout, you have assumed a solemn obligation to do your duty to God, to country, to your fellow scouts, and to Mankind in general. This is a great undertaking.
As you live up to your obligations you bring honor to yourself and to your brother scouts. Your responsibility goes far beyond your fellow scouts, to your country and your God. America has many good things to give you and your children after you; but these things depend for the most part on the quality of her citizens.
Our country has had a great past. You are here to make the future greater. I charge you to undertake your citizenship with a solemn dedication. Be a leader, but lead only toward the best. Lift up every task you do and every office you hold to the high level of service to God and your fellow man. So live and serve that those who know you will be inspired to the highest living.
We have too many who use their strength and their brains to exploit others and gain selfish ends. I charge you to be among those who dedicate their skills and ability to the common good. Build America on the solid foundations of clean living, honest work, unselfish citizenship, and reverence for God, and you will leave behind you a record of which every scout may be justly proud.
The American’s Creed
I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign nation of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies.
Preamble to the American Legion’s Constitution
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY WE ASSOCIATE OURSELVES TOGETHER FOR THE FOLLOWING PURPOSES:
To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;
To maintain law and order;
To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism;
To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars;
To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state, and nation;
To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses;
To make Right the master of Might;
To promote peace and goodwill on Earth;
To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy;
To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.
Inscription at the Rockefeller Center
I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, and obligation; every possession, a duty.
I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.
I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.
I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business, or personal affairs.
I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.
I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond; that character- not wealth or power or position- is of supreme worth.
I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of Mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.
I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.
I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.
“If,” by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head while all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise,
If you can dream, and not make dreams your master,
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or see the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop, and build ‘em up with worn-out tools,
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them, “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Then yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And- which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!
“The Coming American,” by Sam Walter Foss
Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose
And new eras in their brains.
Bring me men to match my prairies,
Men to match my inland seas,
Men whose thought shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies,
Pioneers to clear thought’s marshlands
And to cleanse old Error’s fen
Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men!
Bring me men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and blast,
Branching toward the skyey future
Rooted in the fertile past
Bring me men to match my valleys,
Tolerant of sun and snow,
Men within whose fateful purpose
Time’s consummate blooms shall grow
Men to tame the tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den
Cleanse the dragon slime of nature-
Bring me men!
Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleavers, flowing free
Drawn by the eternal madness
To be mingled with the sea;
Men of oceanic impulse
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide-unfolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep
Men who feel the strong pulsation
Of the Central Sea, and then
Time their currents to its earth-throb-
Bring me men!
Statement of Principles
Prudence and Vigor
Honor and Duty
Goodwill to All
Humility Before God
Statement of Purpose
To Know the Ways of Man
To Writer with Fire in my Pen
To Lead with Vigor in my Chest
To Live with Prudence in my Breast