Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Alumni Association
An eloquent man, who does not believe in the existence of God or the immortality of the soul, standing by an open grave and pronouncing a eulogy upon him who is to occupy it, presents one of the saddest spectacles this world affords.
Such a service finds no support even in philosophy, for if death is the end and its victim has ceased to exist, there is nothing in all the wide universe to which the euology can be applied except a fast fading picture on the walls of memory, and it becomes a mere empty declamation to those who will themselves soon pass into nothingness — a shadow-drama, acted before a shadow-audience, upon which in a little while will fall the curtain of eternal night.
But the tribute which one pays to a departed friend, in the full faith and assurance that he still lives, and will live forever, is a reasonable and a pious service, approved of heaven, and honored among men. The words of the orator in the one case, however beautiful, are but the cry of despair; the utterance of the speaker in the other, however simple, is that of a soul conscious of its immortality, and rejoicing in a deathless hope.
Clouds and darkness encompass the one service; upon the other rests ‘the light that never shone on land or sea.’
You could have extended to me no invitation which would appeal more irresistibly alike to my sense of public duty, and to my loyalty to a life-long friendship than that which has brought me here to-day.
If more than thirty years of intimate association between two men will justify one of them in attempting to give a faithful portraiture of the other after he has passed the portals of the grave, I am not entirely unqualified for the duty before me, but I fully realize the difficulty of so performing it as not to render it worthless by exaggerated euology on the one hand, or inadequate tribute on the other.
It shall be my aim, as it is my hope, to do justice.
I would not do less, and he of whom I speak, though voiceless now, would not have me do more.
And I begin to do justice by declaring it to be my deliberate conviction that our State has never produced a son who was more intensely North Carolinian in every fibre of his being, or one who rendered more continuous, unselfish, devoted, and valuable service to her than did William Lawrence Saunders-service, too, a large part of which was performed by him during years of ceaseless physical