I have just come from a convention of idealists. In solemn conclave they considered the most profound aspects of their own responsibilities for law and order;for education; for morals; for peace; for economic welfare. They shirked, .none, of the load which might be theirs. Perhaps they were even a bit too free in assuming an undue portion of it. Yet, if you should meet these men on the street, you would not recognize them as idealists. They have no peculiar gleam in their eyes, no imposing gestures. They wear their clothes cut as other men do. They visit tonsorial parlors frequently. They greet you with a cordiality unspoiled by any air of detachment or preoccupation. They go about their duties as other men do. They are doctors, lawyers, architects, dentists, engineers, teachers. And yet, no one could exhibit a greater degree of idealism than they do, as they interpret their every day callings, in terms of what they attempt to do for the world. The highest objectives of the professional man were repeatedly expressed. Not once did I hear salaries mentioned.
Now, of what significance is idealism, in professional men? Of what value are an engineer's ideals?
The engineer is a professional man, and his objectives parallel those of his brother-professionals,— the teachers, the doctors, the ministers, the lawyers. In fact, the several codes of ethics of the various professions are based pretty largely upon the same foundations, namely, principles of honor and duty. Out of these two concepts grow all the rules set for human conduct and human interrelations.
But, if you have read this far, you are saying, "Enough! I knew he couldn't say anything practical about idealism!"
Wait a minute! I challenge you!
The most practical thing in the world is idealism!
Idealism, —that mental picture which man has of perfection; that urge upon him to strive for improvement; that acknowledgment within him that only the best is worthy of his effort.
What has laid the solid base upon which the profession of medicine stands? It is the medical practitioner's acceptance of his duty of service as an ideal.
He is the protector of humanity. No task or demand upon him sees him flinch. Rest, comfort, strength; time and substance: his days, his nights; even his life,—all are poured into the concrete foundation upon which he builds.
The lawyer puts all of his strength and ingenuity into presenting the case of his client in as favorable a light as may be possible. His duty is to see that all which honorably may be done is properly accomplished. It is not his task to make judicial presentation of both sides of the case. His is an assignment which demands of him that he, in fairness to his client and in the pursuit of justice, be strongly and whole-heartedly partisan : hat his interpretations and claims be optimistic; that no favorable item be overlooked or undervalued. So exacting a claim is this upon the advocate that his attitude is often mistaken by the public. Yet, he must live up to these ideals, and in doing so the rights of mankind are served.
The artist's brush strives to put his ideals on canvas. The sculptor's chisel to carve his into marble. The architect would frame and clothe his structures in beauty.
Upon the works of the engineer depend health, security
and even life. In what a spirit of rectitude and honor should they be accomplished!
Surely idealism has a very practical value in professionalism.
The citizen of today is vastly concerned with the ideals which are welling up to flood the world. Disarmament is an ideal. Can anything be of more practical value than world peace ? And yet, all the steps which have been taken so laboriously are the results of urgings of ideals, —idealism of the highest type-To be sure, there are involved enormous monetary values, and immeasurable values of human life. But that does not lessen the idealistic quality of the end sought.
Don't be afraid of your ideals. Don't be ashamed of them, —unless they are unworthy of you and your profession. Dream dreams, and try to make them come true. Fly, and in so doing your wings will grow stronger and your horizons will recede as you rise.
And your ideals, with your technical attainments, will
make of you a worthy professional man.