President Eliot on Reverence
President Eliot delivered an address at the Prospect Union yesterday afternoon on "Just Reverence Consistent with Genuine Democracy." He showed that in order to have a true belief in permanent democracy it is necessary to understand that democracy does not destroy reverence, but increases it in an altered form. The democratic reverence is not a reverence for symbols, but for the facts behind the symbols; an estimate of the true value. The great movement of the world today is towards democracy, which one hundred years from today will exceed any present conception. If the democracy of this great country is to be sound, our commerce and society must be of sound character. Critics have said, that democracy is inconsistent with the finest characteristics of past ages.
What then does equality among men mean? Certainly not that all men are born with equal powers. It is a well known fact that children in the same families and men in the same factories exhibit great diversity in scope of power. Democracy is not equality of all men, but equality of opportunity. No artificial restrictions should limit any man's power. Let the president hold his position through his inborn capacity, let the laborer be such through inability to rise. Freedom of opportunity is the ideal to be fought for.
Such then is true democracy, and as such do we find it inconsistent with true reverence? It is argued that American children are not respectful junior reverent towards their parents, because of the democratic custom, now in vogue among parents, of suggesting what is to be done, not ordering. The true criterion of reverence is the attitude in later years. Never before were aged parents treated with so great kindness as today. Is this inconsistent with true democracy. The same relation between teacher and pupil has brought about far greater reverence than the old dictatory attitude. We, who are the most democratic, have the greatest reverence for women of all modern countries.
Reverence for religion is said to be decreasing as a result of our growing democracy. This is only true in a certain sense, in that we no tonger respect symbols. The robe of the priest and mere matters of form tend to lose their position of respect as democracy increases, but in their place comes an estimation of the true value of the facts represented. We see that the symbols represent the true type that we demand. There is no diminution of reverence of the true God and the power of the University. True reverence is perfectly consistent with genuine democracy, and a belief in this fact is necessary to the attainment of the ideal democracy.