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June 19 , 2008

The Super Race: An American Problem


As a very small boy, I distinctly remember that stories of the discovery of America and Australia, of the exploration of Central Africa and of the invention of the locomotive, the steamboat, and the telegraph made a deep impression on my childish mind; and I shall never forget going one day to my mother and saying:— “Oh, dear, I wish I had been born before everything was discovered and invented. Now, there is nothing left for me to do.” Brooding over it, and wondering why it should be so, my boyish soul felt deeply the tragedy of being born into an uneventful age. I fully believed that the great achievements of the world were in the past. Imagine then my joy when, in the course of my later studies, it slowly dawned upon me that the age in which I lived was, after all, an age of unparalleled activity. I saw the much vaunted discoveries and inventions of by-gone days in their true proportions. They no longer preëmpted the whole world—present and future, as well as past, but, freed from romance, they ranged themselves in the form of a foundation upon which the structure of civilization is building. The successive steps in human achievement, from the use of fire to the harnessing of electricity, constituted a process of evolution creating “a stage where every man must play his part”—a part expanding and broadening with each succeeding generation; and I saw that I had a place among the actors in this play of progress. The forward steps of the past need not, and would not prevent me from achieving in the present—nay, they might even make a place, if I could but find it, for my feet; they might hold up my hands, and place within my grasp the keen tools with which I should do my work.
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