Law and Order in Egypt, (28 March 1910) Cairo, Egypt

Speech Text

[1] It is to me a peculiar pleasure to speak today under such distinguished auspices as yours, Prince Fouad, before this National University and it is of good augury for the great cause of higher education in Egypt that have enlisted the special interest of so distinguished and eminent a man. The Arabic-speaking world produced the great University of Cordova, which flourished a thousand years ago, and was a source of light and learning when the rest of Europe was either twilight or darkness; in the centuries following the creation of that Spanish Moslem university, Arabic men of science, travellers, and geographers—such as the noteworthy African traveller Ibn Batutu, a copy of whose book, by the way, I saw yesterday in the library of Alhazar—were teachers whose works are still to be eagerly studied; and I trust that here we shall see the revival and more than the revival, of the conditions that made such contributions to the growth of civilization.

[2] This scheme of a National University is fraught with literally untold possibilities for the good of your country. You may have many rocks ahead of which you must steer clear; and because I am your earnest friend and well-wisher, I desire to point out one or two of these things which is necessary especially to avoid. In the first place, there is one point upon which I always lay stress in my own country, in your country, in all countries—the need of entire honesty as the only foundation on which it is safe to build. It is a prime essential that all who are in any way responsible for the beginnings of the University shall make it evident to everyone that the management of the University, financial and otherwise, will be conducted with absolute honesty. Very much money will have to be raised and expended for this university in order to make what it can and ought to be made; for if properly managed, I firmly believe that it will become one of the greatest influences, and perhaps the very greatest influence, for good in all that part of the world where Mohammedanism is the leading religion, that is, in all those regions of the Orient, including North Africa and Southwestern Asia, which stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the farther confines of India and to the hither provinces of China. This University should have a profound influence in all things educational, social, economic, industrial, throughout this whole region, because the very fact of Egypt’s immense strategic importance, so to speak, in the world of the Orient; an importance due partly to her geographical position, partly to other causes. Moreover, it is most fortunate that Egypt’s present position is such that this University will enjoy a freedom hitherto unparalleled in the investigation and testing out of all problems vital to the future of the peoples of the Orient.

[3] Nor will the importance of this university be confined to the Orient. Egypt must necessarily from now on always occupy a similar strategic position as regards to the people of the Occident, for she sits on one of the highways of the commerce that will flow in ever-increasing volume from Europe to the East. Those responsible for the management of this University should set before themselves a very high ideal. Not merely should it stand for the uplifting of all Mohammedan peoples and of all Christian and peoples of other religions who live in Mohammedan lands, but it should also carry its teaching and practice to such perfection as in the end to make it a factor in instructing the Occident. When a scholar is sufficiently apt, sufficiently sincere and intelligent, he always has before him the opportunity of eventually himself giving aid to the teachers from whom he has received aid.

[4] Now, to make a good beginning towards the definite achievement of these high ends, it is essential that you should command respect and should be absolutely trusted. Make it felt that you will not tolerate the least little particle of financial crookedness in the raising or expenditure of any money, so that those who wish to give money to this deserving cause may feel entire confidence that their piasters will be well and honestly applied.

[5] In the next place, show the same good faith, wisdom, and sincerity in your educational plans that you do in the financial management of the institution. Avoid sham and hollow pretence just as you avoid religious, racial or political bigotry. You have much to learn from the universities of Europe and of my own land, but there is also in them not a little which is well to avoid. Copy what is good in them, but test in a critical spirit whatever you take, so as to be sure that you take only what is wisest and best for yourselves. More important even than avoiding any mere educational shortcoming is the avoidance of moral shortcoming. Students are already being sent to Europe to prepare themselves to return as professors. Such preparation is now essential, for it is of prime importance that the University should be familiar with what is being done in the best universities of Europe and America. But let the men who are sent be careful to bring back what is fine and good, what is essential to the highest kind of modern progress, and let them avoid what are the mere non-essentials of present-day civilization, and, above all, the vices of modern civilized nations. Let these men keep open minds. It would be capital blunder to refuse to copy, and thereafter to adapt to your own needs, what has raised the Occident in the scale of power and justice and clean living. But it would be no less capital blunder to copy what is cheap and trivial or vicious, or even what is merely wrongheaded. Let the men who go to Europe feel that they have much to learn and much to also avoid and reject; let them bring back the good and leave behind the discarded evil.

[6] Remember that character is far more important than intellect, and that a really great university should strive to develop the qualities that go to make up the character even more than the qualities that go to make up a highly trained mind. No man can reach the front rank if he is not intelligent and if he is not trained with intelligence; but mere intelligence by itself is worse than useless unless it is guided by an upright heart, unless there are also strength and courage behind it. Morality, decency, clean living, courage, manliness, self-respect—these qualities are more important in the make-up of a people than any mental subtlety. Shape this University’s course so that it shall help in the production of a constantly upward trend for all your people.

[7] You should always be on your guard against one defect in Western education. There has been altogether too great a tendency in the higher schools of learning in the West to train men merely for literary, professional, and official positions; altogether too great a tendency to act as if a literary education were the only real education. I am exceedingly glad that you have already started industrial and agricultural schools in Egypt. A literary education is simply one of the many different kinds of education and it is not wise that more than a small percentage of the people of any country should have an exclusively literary education. The average man must either supplement it by another education, or else as soon as he has left an institution of learning, even though he has benefited by it, he must at once begin to train himself to do work along totally different lines. His Highness the Khedive, in the midst of his activities touching many phases of Egyptian life, has shown conspicuous wisdom, great foresight, and keen understanding of the needs of the country in the way in which he has devoted himself to its agricultural betterment, in the interest which he has taken in the improvement of cattle, crops, etc. You need in this country, as is the case in every other country, a certain number of men whose education shall fit them for the life of scholarship or to become teachers or public officials. But it is a very unhealthy thing for any country for more than a small proportion of the strongest and best minds of the country to turn to such channels. It is essential also to develop industrialism, to train people so that they can be cultivators of the soil in the largest sense on as successful as scale as the most successful lawyer or public man, to train them so that they shall be engineers, merchants—in short, men able to take the lead in all the various functions indispensible in a great modern civilized state. An honest, courageous, and far-sighted politician is a good thing in any country. But his usefulness will depend chiefly upon his being able to express the wishes of a population wherein the politician forms but a fragment of the leadership, where the business man and the landowner, the engineer and the man of technical knowledge, the men of a hundred different pursuits, represent the average type of leadership. No people has ever permanently amounted to anything if its only public leaders were clerks, politicians and lawyers. The base, the foundation, of healthy life in any country, in any society, is necessarily composed of the men who do the actual productive work of the country, whether in tilling the soil, in the handicrafts, or in business; and it matters little whether they work with hands or head, although more and more we are growing to realize that it is a good thing to have the same man work with both head and hands. These men, in many different careers, do the work which is most important to the community’s life; although, of course, it must be supplemented by the work of the other men whose education and activities are literary and scholastic, of men who work in politics or law, or in literary and clerical positions.

[8] Never forget that in any country the most important activities are the activities of the man who works with the head and the hands in the ordinary life of the community, whether he be handicraftsman, farmer, or business man—no matter what his occupation, so long as it is useful and no matter what his position, from the guiding intelligence at the top down all the way through, just as long as his work is good. I preach this to you here by the banks of the Nile, and it is the identical doctrine I preach no less earnestly by the banks of the Hudson, the Mississippi, and the Colombia.

[9] Remember always that the securing of a substantial education, whether by the individual or by the people, is attained only by a process, not by an act. You can no more make a man really educated by giving him a certain curriculum of studies than you can make a people fit for self-government by giving it a paper constitution. The training of an individual so as to fit him to do good work in the world is a matter of years; just as the training of a nation to fit it successfully to fulfil the duties of self-government is a matter, not of a decade or two, but of generations. There are foolish empiricists who believe that granting a paper constitution, prefaced by some high-sounding declaration, of itself confers the power of self-government upon a people. This is never so. Nobody can “give” a people “self-government,” any more than it is possible to “give” an individual “self-help.” You know that the Arab proverb runs, “God helps those that help themselves.” In the long run, the only permanent way by which an individual can be helped is to help him to help himself, and this is one of the things your University should inculcate. But it must be his own slow growth in character that is the final and determining factor in the problem. So it is with a people. In the two Americas we have seen certain commonwealths rise and prosper greatly. We have also seen other commonwealths start under identically the same conditions, with the same freedom and the same rights, the same guarantees, and yet have seen them fail miserably and lamentably, and sink into corruption and anarchy and tyranny, simply because the people for whom the constitution was made did not develop qualities which alone would enable them to take advantage of it. With any people, the essential quality to show is not haste in grasping after a power which it is only too easy to misuse, but a slow, steady, resolute development of those substantial qualities, such as the love of justice, the love of fair play, the spirit of self-reliance, of moderation, which alone enable a people to govern themselves. In this long and even tedious but absolutely essential process, I believe your University will take an important part. While I was recently in the Sudan I heard a vernacular proverb, based on a text in the Koran, which is so apt that, although not an Arabic scholar, I shall attempt to repeat in Arabic: “Allah ma el saberin, izza sabaru”—God is with the patient, if they know how to wait.

[10] One essential feature of this process must be a spirit which will condemn every form of lawless evil, every form of envy and hatred, and, above all, hatred based upon religion or race. All good men, all the men of every nation whose respect is worth having, have been inexpressibly shocked by the recent assassination of Boutros Pasha. It was an even greater calamity for Egypt than it was a wrong to the individual himself. The type of man which turns out an assassin is a type possessing all the qualities most alien to good citizenship; the type which produces poor soldiers in time of war and worse citizens in times of peace. Such a man stands on a pinnacle of evil infamy; and those who apologize for or condone this act, those who by word or by deed, directly or indirectly, encourage such an act in advance, or defend it afterwards, occupy the same bad eminence. It is of no consequence whether the assassin be a Moslem or a Christian or a man of no creed; whether the crime be committed in political strife or industrial warfare, whether it be an act hired by a rich man or performed by a poor man; whether it be committed under the pretence of preserving order or the pretence of obtaining liberty. It is equally abhorrent in the eyes of all decent men, and, in the long run, equally damaging to the very cause to which the assassin professes to be devoted.

[11] Your University is a National University, and as such knows no creed. This is as it should be. When I speak of equality between Moslem and Christian, I speak as one who believes that where the Christian is more powerful he should be scrupulous in doing justice to the Moslem, exactly as under the reverse conditions justice should be done by the Moslem to the Christian. In my own country we have in the Philippines Moslems as well as Christians. We do not tolerate for one moment any oppression by the one or by the other, any discrimination by the Government between them or failure to mete out the same justice to each, treating each man on his worth as a man, and behaving towards him as his conduct demands and deserves.

[12] In short, gentleman, I earnestly hope that all responsible for the beginnings of the University, which I trust will become one of the greatest and most powerful educational influences throughout the whole world, will feel it incumbent upon themselves to frown on every form of wrong-doing, whether in the shape of injustice or corruption or lawlessness, and to stand with firmness, with good sense, and with courage, for those immutable principles of justice and merciful dealing as between man and man, without which there can never be the slightest growth towards a really fine and high civilization.