Acres of Diamonds
by Russell H. Conwell
But let me hasten to one other greater thought. “Show me the great men and women who live in Philadelphia.'' A gentleman over there will get up and say: “We don't have any great men in Philadelphia. They don't live here. They live away off in Rome or St. Petersburg or London or Manayunk, or anywhere else but here in our town.'' I have come now to the apex of my thought. I have come now to the heart of the whole matter and to the center of my struggle: Why isn't Philadelphia a greater city in its greater wealth? Why does New York excel Philadelphia? People say, “Because of her harbor.'' Why do many other cities of the United States get ahead of Philadelphia now? There is only one answer, and that is because our own people talk down their own city. If there ever was a community on earth that has to be forced ahead, it is the city of Philadelphia. If we are to have a boulevard, talk it down; if we are going to have better schools, talk them down; if you wish to have wise legislation, talk it down; talk all the proposed improvements down. That is the only great wrong that I can lay at the feet of the magnificent Philadelphia that has been so universally kind to me. I say it is time we turn around in our city and begin to talk up the things that are in our city, and begin to set them before the world as the people of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and San Francisco do. Oh, if we only could get that spirit out among our people, that we can do things in Philadelphia and do them well!
Arise, ye millions of Philadelphians, trust in God and man, and believe in the great opportunities that are right here not over in New York or Boston, but here--for business, for everything that is worth living for on earth. There was never an opportunity greater. Let us talk up our own city.
But there are two other young men here tonight, and that is all I will venture to say, because it is too late. One over there gets up and says, “There is going to be a great man in Philadelphia, but never was one.'' “Oh, is that so? When are you going to be great?'' “When I am elected to some political office.'' Young man, won't you learn a lesson in the primer of politics that it is a prima facie evidence of littleness to hold office under our form of government? Great men get into office sometimes, but what this country needs is men that will do what we tell them to do. This nation--where the people rule-- is governed by the people, for the people, and so long as it is, then the office holder is but the servant of the people, and the Bible says the servant cannot be greater than the master. The Bible says, “He that is sent cannot be greater than Him who sent Him.'' The people rule, or should rule, and if they do, we do not need the greater men in office. If the great men in America took our offices, we would change to an empire in the next ten years.
I know of a great many young women, now that woman's suffrage is coming, who say, “I am going to be President of the United States someday.'' I believe in woman's suffrage, and there is no doubt but what it is coming, and I am getting out of the way, anyhow. I may want an office by and by myself; but if the ambition for an office influences the women in their desire to vote, I want to say right here what I say to the young men, that if you only get the privilege of casting one vote, you don't get anything that is worthwhile. Unless you can control more than one vote, you will be unknown, and your influence so dissipated as practically not to be felt. This country is not run by votes. Do you think it is? It is governed by influence. It is governed by the ambitions and the enterprises that control votes. The young woman that thinks she is going to vote for the sake of holding an office is making an awful blunder.
That other young man gets up and says, “There are going to be great men in this country and in Philadelphia.'' “Is that so? When?'' “When there comes a great war, when we get into difficulty through watchful waiting in Mexico; when we get into war with England over some frivolous deed, or with Japan or China or New Jersey or some distant country. Then I will march up to the cannon's mouth; I will sweep up among the glistening bayonets; I will leap into the arena and tear down the flag and bear it away in triumph. I will come home with stars on my shoulder, and hold every office in the gift of the nation, and I will be great.'' No, you won't. You think you are going to be made great by an office, but remember that if you are not great before you get the office, you won't be great when you secure it. It will only be a burlesque in that shape.
We had a Peace Jubilee here after the Spanish War. Out West they don't believe this, because they said, “Philadelphia would not have heard of any Spanish War until fifty years hence.'' Some of you saw the procession go up Broad Street. I was away, but the family wrote to me that the tallyho coach with Lieutenant Hobson upon it stopped right at the front door and the people shouted, “Hurrah for Hobson!'' and if I had been there I would have yelled too, because he deserves much more of his country than he has ever received. But suppose I go into school and say, “Who sunk the Merrimac at Santiago?'' and if the boys answer me, “Hobson,'' they will tell me seven-eighths of a lie. There were seven other heroes on that steamer, and they, by virtue of their position, were continually exposed to the Spanish fire, while Hobson, as an officer, might reasonably be behind the smoke stack. You have gathered in this house your most intelligent people, and yet, perhaps, not one here can name the other seven men.We ought not to so teach history. We ought to teach that, however humble a man's station may be, if he does his full duty in that place he is just as much entitled to the American people's honor as is the king upon his throne. But we do not so teach. We are now teaching everywhere that the generals do all the fighting.