“When I was asked to make this address I wondered what I had to say to you boys who are graduating. And I think I have one thing to say. If you wish to be useful, never take a course that will silence you. Refuse to learn anything that implies collusion, whether it be a clerkship or a curacy, a legal fee or a post in a university. Retain the power of speech no matter what other freedom you may lose. If you can take this course, in so far as you take it, you will bless this country. In so far as you depart from this course you become dampers, mutes and hooded executioners.
As a practical matter a mere failure to speak out upon occasions where no opinion is asked or expected of you, and when the utterance of an uncalled-for suspicion is odious, will often hold you to a concurrence in palpable iniquity. Try to raise a voice that will be heard from here to Albany and watch what comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father’s offering you a place in his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if any of you young gentlemen have a mind to make himself heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputations and a close enemy of most men who would wish you well.
I have seen ten years of young men who rush out into the world with their messages, and when they find how deaf the world is, they think that they must save their strength and wait. They believe that after a while they will be able to get up on some little eminence from which they can make themselves heard. ‘In a few years,’ reasons one of them, ‘I shall have gained a standing, and then I will use my powers for good.’ Next year comes and with it a strange discovery. The man has lost his horizon of thought. His ambition has evaporated; he has nothing to say. I give you this rule of conduct. Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don’t be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time.”
–John Jay Chapman, Commencement address to the graduating class, Hobart College, 1900