I should like you to remember two or three fixed principles which shine through all the history of mankind. The first is that mere bigness is not greatness. There is no dignity, no nobleness, in mere bulk. The true greatness of a nation depends upon the character of its ethical ideal and the energy with which it pursues it. I count it a peculiar good fortune for the American nation that it was conceived in liberty and intelligence and swaddled in order and justice, and that its early years were watched over by men who saw in such an organization the best hopes of the human race. But the baptism of the fathers does not guarantee the consecration of their children; and the republic can be kept true to its ideals only by the devoted efforts of each succeeding generation. Thus is it the privilege of the quiet scholar, who sees and speaks the truth, to shape from his study the policy of nations and the course of history.
The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world. A man's greatness is not estimated by the size of his body or of his purse; not by his family connections or social position, however high these may be. He may bulk large in public estimation today, but tomorrow he will be forgotten like a dream, and his very servants may secure a higher position and a name lasting possibly a little longer.A man's greatness is estimated by his influence, not over the votes and empty cheers of a changing and passing crowd, but by his abiding, inspiring influence in their bidden thoughts, upon their ways of thinking, and consequently of acting. That is why the Wycliffes, Shakespeares, Miltons, Newtons, Wesleys, and Gladstones of English history live, and will live, in everlasting memory, while lesser men are remembered only through them, and the crowd of demagogues, pretenders, and self-seekers are named, if ever named, only to point a moral, or adorn a tale.So with nations. A great nation is not one which, like Russia, has an enormous territory ; or, like China, has an enormous population. It is the nation which gives mankind new modes of thought, new ideals of life, new hopes, new aspirations; which lifts the world out of the rut, and sets it going on a cleaner and brighter road.