Food for Thought|Feb 10, 2008 9:16 AM| by:

The Individual

For nine thousand years society has depended upon its members as individuals for those creative achievements of mind and spirit that have guided it along the path of civilization. The spark from heaven falls. Who picks it up? The crowd? Never. The individual? Always. It is he and he alone, as artist, inventor, explorer, scholar, scientist, spiritual leader or statesman, who stands nearest to his fellow men. Let them tie his hands or stop his mouth or dragoon him in the name of uniformity, and they cut themselves off from that source in equal measure.

Wisdom and virtue cannot be forced from a crowd as eggs from chickens under electric lights. There is no such thing as general intelligence. There is only individual intelligence communicating itself to other individual intelligences. And there is no such thing as public morality. There is only a composite of private morality.

— A.Whitney Griswold, President, Yale University


When someone says, “But what can a mere individual do now?” I answer: Look at what mere individuals are doing now. Who supports the gambling rackets that take billions every year from the pockets of the people and shamefully debauch our local governments? Individuals.

Who elect our public officials? Individuals.

Who encourage the glamourizing of sexual license in public entertainers? Individuals.

Who stand aside and let rotten conditions in our slums beget the tragic shame of dope peddling? Individuals.

Who tempt tax-gatherers to the shameful betrayal of their trust? Individuals.

Who accept government largesse which dishonest officials sell? Individuals.

Believe me, in our present situation, personal character counts. As another put it, “No rearrangement of bad eggs can make a good omlette.”

–From an address by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick

(Sourced from The Heritage, Feb ’85)