The Universities and Their Activities During Time of War


By DR. MONROE E. DEUTSCH, Vice-President and Provost of the University of California

At the University Meeting, January 23, 1942, on the Campus of the University

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 318-319

YOU are all welcome, both those who have previously been part of our company, and those who for the first time are trying to find their way about our campus. Despite the hard days in which we are living—nay, because of them—, Alma Mater is happy to have her children about her. You are welcome if you have come well—with a realization of the world about you and of your responsibilities. The very fact that you are fewer than for many years, makes your duty all the greater. You are called to be the recipients of higher education, to receive a training which under other conditions many would have shared with you.

The world needs teachers, scholars, physicians, artists, lawyers, musicians, dentists, writers, journalists, philosophers, chemists, engineers, architects, nurses, librarians, social workers and men and women competent in all the many other fields in which training is offered. To be sure for the pursuit of war many of these vocations are, it would appear, of less value, and we must lean heavily on our scientists; to them our gratitude is unbounded, for they are devising means to protect our soldiers and sailors, as well as to assure victory. And without victory all—yes, all—would be lost.

Not one of us should begrudge anything we are called upon to do to aid in this great cause. It should be with a sense not of duty but of joy that we answer the call of our country, the call to defend her and to guarantee the continuance of the freedom which our ancestors won with struggle and toil and endurance.

But at the same time we must not in the process destroy the things for which we are fighting. And one of those, if you but reflect, is the University. I do not mean merely a group of buildings containing books and laboratories and men called professors and others called students. I do not mean those institutions in Germany and Italy which prostitute the name university. I mean true universities, universities which live up to the motto of Harvard Truth and of our own Let there be light. Unless the University is free, free to teach, to discuss, to investigate, it is not a university.

And such a university even in time of war will not surrender its character or its obligations. Side by side with service to the nation in this great national emergency, we shall and must continue our work in letters and philosophy,in history and pure science. In the eyes of eternity they are the truly significant things. So, fellow Californians, do not let yourselves be led to think that nothing is worth while that is unrelated to the war. You have a right to spiritual freedom while fighting for all the freedoms.

If the war were to continue for years, and each and everyone of us during that long period concentrated wholly on war activities, at its close we should have a generation capable of wielding the sword or the gun but poorly adapted to the pursuits of peace. Then in a very real sense Germany would have won since she would have distorted our peace-loving people into a semblance of her warlike self.

We must think both of the war and the days of peace to follow. And today we see that the two are bound closely together; unless we build a real peace, we shall have lost the war. And for that day we must be prepared no less than for the days of struggle and strife.

You must remember too that you are here to be educated as well as to be trained for specific pursuits. Your lives will not be merely those of lawyers or engineers or teachers. Learn what the past of the race has been as well as its present. Read what the noblest minds of all lands and ages have written in imperishable words. Find the pleasure that lies in great art and music.

And in these studies you will often see a relationship to the times in which we are living. The fight for freedom has been fought by men again and again; once won, it seemed secure— and then had to be re-won. And we of this generation are called upon in turn to guard and protect it. We read once more the words of Polybius, who lived in the 2nd century before Christ, and they are as alive and true as if they had fallen from the lips of Winston Churchill. Polybius wrote: "I admit that war is terrible; but it is not so terrible that we should submit to anything in order to avoid it. Why do we all boast about democracy, liberty, and independence, if nothing is more important than peace? We have no respect for the Thebans because they deserted the fight for Greece and took the side of the Persians from fear. . . . For peace, with justice and honor, is the noblest and most valuable possession; when joined with disgrace or cowardice, the most infamous and disastrous."

These are, students of California, times that test men'ssouls and characters. We should feel pride that we have been chosen by fate for so great a destiny.

I give you a slogan for these times: "Those who deserve freedom, will fight for it."

And when you are called, go with pride that you can defend and preserve what has been handed down to us.

Treasure your days here; how long they may be, no one knows. Bring from them everything precious that you can. Profit by each course. Work hard—but care for your health. Take exercise regularly. Feeble bodies cannot carry you far —either in war or in life. And learn to live with your fellows; get joy out of your friendships. Life would indeed be barren if we had no friends to share our joys—or our sorrows.

Don't think we must black out everything that has made college life a time of delight and of pleasant memories. But drain what it has of work and happiness.

The world has need of each of you: when the war ends, the infinitely difficult problems of reconstruction will arise, and the builders will have their part to play—the builders, we pray, of a better world.

But while we must plan for this with all the intelligence we can muster, our first task is before us—to win the war. And the success of the allies is the eager hope of all the peoples who are sore stricken under the German heel. France and Czecho-Slovakia, Norway and Denmark, Holland and Belgium, Poland and Jugo-Slavia and Greece—their fate is in our hands; we cannot fail them and leave them enslaved.

Our victory is their victory; by safe-guarding our freedom we bring them their freedom.

And we have splendid allies. Britain has made a magnificent fight—and with dauntless courage endured frightful bombings which wrought havoc upon cities and their citizens. Dunkirk and Coventry—those scars are decorations of honor.

And side by side with them are the gallant Australians and New Zealanders, the Canadians and South Africans.

Think of the glorious stand of the Russians; along a thousand mile front they have pushed the Germans back and inflicted on them the greatest defeat they have sustained thus far in this war.

And we stand beside the much-enduring Chinese who have fought and suffered for more than four long years—and have not yielded. By the fires of war they have become fused and welded into a nation. They too are carrying on nobly.

And men from all the conquered lands are fighting in the same united cause, fighting in memory of the brutal destruction of all they held dear, fighting to restore their own rule, fighting to regain what has been torn from them.

But I am sure that in giving yourselves to your country, you will not surrender to mob-hysteria. You will remember that whether your parents were born in Germany, England, France or Japan, you are alike American citizens, ready alike to devote yourselves to the service of this nation. And I ask you—though I am sure I need not do so—to retain your splendid attitude of the past, refusing to permit differences of color, race, ancestry to stand between you, or to allow discrimination to show its ugly, undemocratic head.