1946 Fredericton Encaenia

Graduation Address

Delivered by: Stiles, John Alexander

"The Man of Parts" discussed by Dr. John A. Stiles at U.N.B." Daily Gleaner (16 May 1946). (UA Case 67, Box 1)

I have called what I wish to say to you today "The Man of Parts." University graduates are expected, after a further period of preparation, to become leaders among men.

We must assume that the "Man of Parts" is willing to pay the price of constant effort. He glories in the struggle. I intend to refer to five of his characteristics. If you care to make the effort to remember them, you may use them later for self-analysis, testing yourself to see if you have within you these certain characteristics common to most leaders of men.

The first is Thankfulness.

Almost any leader of importance, I believe, would confess to thankfulness at having been chosen for the position he occupies. One could imagine Attlee rejoicing at the opportunity to serve the Empire and the world. As a matter of fact, is there anyone who would not feel a delight at leaving a trail of progress behind him? A strong sense of ever-present thankfulness to the "Man of Parts" is more than a logical state of mind. It is necessary to his fullest development.

The second characteristic of such men is Humility.

This is a state of openness of mind which enables such men to receive new ideas and to learn. I have often noticed that the greatest obstacle to learning is preconception. Let me explain: In my teaching days, a student would be sitting at my desk. He had come for help with something he did not understand. Suddenly, as we talked it over he would exclaim: "Oh, I get you. I thought you meant something else." It was his previous thought which was standing like a wall between him and a new idea.

I would also like to refer to that wonderful sentence in the Bible which reads: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." That word "fear" in modern language should read "awe." "The awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

A man and a cow stand in a field at the foot of a great waterfall. The cow eats grass and pays little, if any, heed to the falling water. The man is lost in wonder, in awe, before this thing of nature which has so much behind it. In other words, he is humble in the presence of the waterfall and because of that humility and open-mindedness, the day may come when he will channel and harness the power of the waterfall to the great benefit of mankind.

The third quality or characteristic is Aspiration.

The leader is something like a mountain climber. He is always dreaming of getting higher. This is the deep, irresistible upward drive which is found in our race. We want to better ourselves and to make life better for other people. Oh, it is easy, deadly easy, to be comfortable and mediocre. All one needs is a job, food, clothing and a bed. No country can advance which has no leaders who hold out promise of a better day tomorrow, promise of growth in some form.

Aspiration means a lively sense of ambition, an eagerness to advance to the limit of one's powers. This characteristic is of first importance.

You would be doing a wicked thing if in conversation with a young man you were to dampen the fires of his aspiration. No, help the young man to dream his dreams no matter how foolish they may seem to you at the moment. I wonder what my father would have said if I had told him I was dreaming of throwing something at the moon to hear it bounce. I believe he would have sent for the family doctor. And yet you know that is exactly what the scientists are doing today.

The fourth quality or characteristic, common to most leaders, is Faith.

Many a leader at a given moment may have no clear idea of where he is going, but he has within him that spiritual quality called faith which enables him to climb the mountain in the dark, never doubting that he will ultimately reach the top and rejoice in rays of the dawning day.

It goes without saying that this resource, almost above all others, justifies the man's position at the head of his followers for surely there is not time when leadership is more essential than when he and his group are smothered in darkness.

Not only has such a man faith in himself and his cause, but he has faith in the men whom he has chosen to go with him. He probably knows each man, his weakness and his strength, but feels the sum total of strength of those composing the organization is sufficient for the task ahead. How frequently we have heard the colonel of a regiment speaking of his faith in and his love for he men fighting under him.

The fifth characteristic is found in the word Obligation.

It was the obligation to serve which kept Churchill going right through the war. Twice he was seriously ill, but even when he had pneumonia he pushed the doctors aside and sat up in bed, read reports and dictated his instructions.

At the beginning of this century, a party of young folks were skating on the Ottawa River. One of the group was a man of great promise named Harper. Suddenly the ice broke and a girl was seen struggling in the water, fighting the current. Harper, throwing off his skates and his coat, ran towards her. A man grabbed his arm, telling him it was certain death to attempt what he had in mind, Harper replied, as he pushed the man aside, "What else can I do?" Both he and the young lady lost their lives. Mackenzie King, a friend of Harper's, was instrumental in having a monument erected by the fence surrounding Parliament. You will recognize it as the bronze figure of Sir Galahad.

I do not say that Harper did what was right, I only call attention to his sense of obligation. In the herd, in the flock, in the colony, we find the weakest in the centre and the leader always out in the front where the danger is the greatest. If he does not occupy that position and has no desire to occupy it, he is held in contempt by his fellowmen.

The issue is a simple one; down through the ages human life has relied upon instinctive sense of obligation on the part of people who by nature are capable of doing great things. This obligation is not born exactly from a sense of duty, but of the sternest racial law we know. In other words, men of parts whether they want to or not, are obligated by their racial bonds to spend themselves to the limit. Akela, the leading wolf of the pack, when the time comes must give his life for the other wolves. The pack demands this of him and when he weakens they kill him.

I am going to venture to suggest that each one of you make a study of himself or herself to see if he or she passes these tests. I have done so many times and I recommend to you the inspiration and the spiritual uplift which you will receive from such an effort.

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