THE DEMOCRACY OF OLIVE-DRAB
It is an old cry, sounded often and loudly, that the spirit of Harvard is undemocratic. Without doubt there is some justness in the complaint. And without doubt it is based really on narrowness of judgment. In no place where men have learned to differentiate between man and man and the most primitive tribes have learned that sort of selection--are all beings equally regarded and equally admired by their fellows. In any social scheme where relations become more complex there is liable to be error of judgment. Men place stress on external appearances, they judge others by their possessions, or some fancied distinctiveness of birth. At Harvard, as at other places frequented by civilized man, those external appearances are apt to mislead the calmest judgment, and give false value to the characters of some men who seem greater than they are. Yet such superficial judgment is far less common here than it is under a more sophisticated mode of life. It is the reaction from the barbaric simplicity of the judgments of youth which is apt to cause men to consider that the standards of judgment here are aristocratic. There is a clean and healthy tendency to regard men for their accomplishments, and the opportunity for accomplishment is open to every man. Can one find in any other group of men outside of the college world such broad-minded democracy?
Whatever vestige of exterior and shallow judgments remains with us should now fall away in the levelling of war. When a thousand men are put in uniform the incipient politician may not measure the great or the near-great by examining whether their shoes are custom-made, or their hats come from New York. The prettiest fop does not show distinction in company front after an afternoon of drill in column and line formations. The assurance gained in talking to paid and obedient servants does not help greatly in telling a platoon of strong and aggressive men to deploy as skirmishers, and be excessively quick about it.
Putting men in uniform will not make all men alike, nor will it cover by olivedrab cloth a man's individuality. But it will remove those barriers of appearance which we have to some extent erected against the tides of democracy. It would be wrong to hope that every man in uniform will hail another as a kindred spirit, to be granted his friendship and his intimacy. Yet we know that true men will see other men on a plane of equality.
The brave man, the strong man, the generous man will receive that honor and fellowship which is the foundation of liberty and equality. The man who is the reverse will be judged with justice. If ever we inclined towards the vice of snobbery, if ever we weighed men by what other men said about them, if ever the faintest measure of false standards was raised among us, that is now gone. The democracy of equal service is ours to the fullest. We are preparing to fight for a great cause. We will honor other men who unselfishly are preparing to fight for the same cause.