03 April 2009

Robert Lansing

Secretary of State

In 1918, Auburn Theological Seminary celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of its founding. A history of the seminary was published, a historical pageant was produced, and, on 10 October 1918, a centennial anniversary dinner was held. Those in attendance at the dinner were addressed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, who was the brother of Edith Lansing Dulles, wife of Professor Allen Macy Dulles of the seminary faculty. Secretary Lansing's address, entitled "The Spirit of the Coming Era," was made in the context of the closing weeks of World War I, when Americans became increasingly aware of the heightened role that their nation would play in world affairs. The text of his address follows.

It is the natural and proper thing for one on an occasion such as this, which marks the close of a century of usefulness by an institution devoted to the advancement of right thinking and right living, to remember the past and rejoice in all that has been achieved. But in these days of war we are irresistably drawn to the present. Before this critical time in the history of mankind the past was an agreeable theme because, in the course of events which have gone to make up the lives of nations and institutions and to mark the progress of our intellectual development, we read -- or at least thought that we read -- the possibilities of the future.

The last four years have n large measure shaken our faith in the ability of human reason to draw true deductions from a series of accomplished facts. Only after this terrible catastrophe had fallen upon the world did most of us realize that, had we not misinterpreted history for the past quarter of a century, we would have perceived what the end would be. We know now that this great conflict was inevitable. We know now that a savage beast controlling the peoples of central Europe had been waiting for the day when it would be strong enough to leap upon an unsuspecting workld and master it. What we know now is very different from our peaceful dreams of five years ago.
In view of our blindness, of our failure to read the future a right, we may well hesitate to look forward beyond the day when Prussianism will be ground to powder by the might of the united democracies of the earth. I fix upon that event as the beginning of a new wea for mankind because it requires no divine gift of prophecy to foresee its accomplishment . It is as certain as anything . . .