Sedgwick High School Class of 1918 (EDU.8)

1918 photo of the first Sedgwick high school class

Sedgwick High School 1914-1946

Sedgwick High School 1914-1946

Sedgwick High School 1914-1946

The photo below of the 1918, first graduating class, of Sedgwick High School is followed by a transcript of the commencement address given by Catharine Clapp Sargent, the class valedictorian.

The 1918, first graduating class, of Sedgwick High School

1918–The first Sedgwick High graduating class: 
Back row L-R  Alice Grindal, Catharine Sargent, Lawrence Hagerthy, Olney Grindle, Katherine Gray Young
Front row L-R  Florence Bracy, Paul Byard, Elsie Decker Chatto, Arthur Cousins, Charles Kane

Catharine Clapp Sargent’s Valedictorian speech-1918


Democracy is “government by the people.” There are two forms, pure democracy and representative democracy. The pure democracy may be passed over lightly.  Assemblies in which all the people appear, in order to take part in the discussion and to vote, are obviously impossible in a country of any size. Pure democracy, as a form of general government, has therefore passed out of existence among civilized nations.  As a form of local government it still exists in this country in the town meeting.  At one time Athens was practically a pure democracy and all the people met in the assemblies to decide important questions but even then there was a flaw in their government for none of the towns which belonged to Athens and were ruled by the Assembly had any voice in making the laws.

The democracy of the modern world has assumed another form; it has become the representative democracy or the republic.  But this is not the only respect in which the ancient democracy differed from the modern.  To us even the most democratic of ancient democracies looks more like an aristocracy or an oligarchy.  It was always government by a class.  The ancient democracy failed because it soon grew too large and unwieldy for a pure democracy and it never hit upon the happy expedient of representation.  This scheme, by which the political powers of a whole body of individuals are delegated to a single who acts as their agent or representative, had been in use among the English people even before they left their homes in North Germany and Denmark to found a new nation in the island country to the west of them.  During the greater part of her history, Great Britain has not been, as she is now, a representative democracy but a representative aristocracy.  However, she now belongs in reality among the republics, being almost as democratic in form as the United States.  Otherwise David Lloyd-George could never have arisen from the common people to the high office that he now holds, even as did our own beloved Abraham Lincoln.

The spirit of democracy is the spirit which Thomas Jefferson showed when he wrote our Declaration of Independence.  It involves the principles of justice, humanity and liberty to all men.  It is the spirit that has led millions of brave men to give up their lives that democracy shall not perish.  It has bound the peoples of the world together with a bond that will last as long as the love of liberty and honor shall live.  Democracy is the cause for which the United States is fighting in this war and our brave soldiers are inspired by the conviction that no sacrifice is too great if only a lasting peace may be brought about founded upon the principles of law and justice.  An English citizen says that he is greatly impressed by this evidence of purpose, of set determination in our men. He had seen processions of soldiers of many nationalities and has been especially interested in observing national traits on a march: the French, with their enthusiasm, throwing kisses to the women as they pass; the Tommies, who have surprised the world with their gaiety, and keep up a constant ragging intercourse with the crowd and cannot cease from singing; the Indians, who pass like a splendidly carved frieze; the Canadians who move with a free and independent swing and who grin in a friendly way; the Scotch, who carry it off better than anyone.  But he had never seen American troops and was anxious to see how they behaved so he went to see the first contingent of “Sammies” as they passed thru London.  As soon as “Old Glory” came in sight, borne by a solemn giant, the crowd commenced to cheer.  But there was no answering shouts and jokes from the soldiers.  All the crowd heard was the music of the band and the steady tramp, tramp, tramp of the soldiers as they passed.  Thousands of the boys in Khaki passed with solemn faces and eyes looking straight ahead.  At first to these Londoners, accustomed to cheers and gay badinage, the silence seemed uncanny, oppressive.  But when they saw the faces of the soldiers they realized that here was emotion too deep for expression.
Tramp, tramp, tramp.
To make the world safe for democracy.
That is the end the soldiers have in view and they are determined to overcome every obstacle until that end shall be accomplished.  Nothing will daunt them, nothing will turn them from their purpose.  They are fighting for democracy and the spirit of democracy is in their hearts.

This spirit has led many women to leave luxurious homes and go to Europe as nurses and relief workers or to enter upon some government work.  Titled Red Cross nurses may be seen in the hospitals tenderly caring for wounded soldiers, formerly of a low station in life.

The son of a poor widow may march off to the front by the side of a Vanderbilt or an Astor and be as much respected by his comrade-in-arms.

The great World War is a war of democracy against autocracy.  One or the other must triumph before the world can find a lasting peace. Germany represents autocracy and the more we know about it, the more thoroughly do we become convinced of the utter cruelty of German imperialism.  In 1870 Alsace and Lorraine, two French provinces, were taken by Germany.  Immediately they were put under military rule.  Everything about the homes of these Frenchmen had to be changed. They were not allowed to have anything French, not even furniture, and there was one woman who was not allowed to embroider the “fleur-de-lis” on her daughter’s wedding clothes.  The children were taught in school to speak only German and to deride France but the mothers secretly instilled in their hearts, love for the tricolored flag and taught them to speak the beloved French language.

Democracy absorbs, autocracy compels.  The purpose of the Kaiser is to conquer the world even as Napoleon attempted to conquer Europe so many years ago. German Kultur must rule.  He will do anything to accomplish his ends.  International law? Treaties? And laws of humanity?  They mean nothing if they stand in his way.  His submarines have killed thousands of innocent people.  He sits at home and laughs, diabolically over the heartaches and sorrow he has caused.  The mass of the German people are but the dupes of the Kaiser and his counsellors.  A famous cartoonist gives the picture of the German, his eyes bandaged that he may not see, his mouth gagged that he may not speak and his ears open for the words of the Prussians –but he must be thinking.

Opposed to this autocracy we have democracy and our own United States is the greatest democracy in the World.  What a difference!  Here we have the greatest freedom; liberty of the press, liberty of speech and of action and we have had it so long that we do not appreciate it.  Moreover the people rule the nation thru representatives directly chosen by them.  Our laws do not oppress but protect.

America is aiming for a newer and better civilization.  We are all fighting, in the workplace as well as in the trenches, for a world in which every man shall enjoy his full share in the world’s blessings.  World notions of government by privileged classes, the old ideals of international relations which grew out of the selfish desire of each nation to get the better of its neighbors are rapidly disappearing and new ideals of international helpfulness, based on national democracy, are rapidly taking their place.  Out of this war will come a new democracy, founded on a new relationship between men. The man who has found the soul of his brother in the smoke and din of battle will still be his comrade when the war is over, even tho their stations in life may be ever so far apart.  So if, out of this maelstrom, a new world is born, in which the spirit of democracy shall be in all men’s hearts and fill them with love, is it not worth the sacrifice?

We are engaged in what we all hope is the last desperate fight against the so-called divine right of kings and of privilege.  We are fighting so that all men and all nations may enjoy their unalienable rights—life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

May the day soon come when autocracy shall fall and democracy, victorious, shall rule the world!

“The miner and the merchant
Are both brave men.
See them both in khaki
They do not differ then-
One mid death and danger,
In deed and daring one.
And these shall still be comrades
When the course of war is run.”

“Now this shall be the great reward, when in a
World in strife,
Like sun that bursts thru thunder, the great
Peace lifts to life.
The statesman and the workman
Are both true men.
See them with one purpose
They do not differ then—
One who guides a nation
One who makes a gun,
And these shall still be kindred
When the new day greets the sun.”

“The world storm with its torture, with pain that
Knows no rest
But this shall be the glory at morning on her breast,
The statesman and the workman
Shall be of one estate;
The miner and the merchant
Shall be as mate to mate;
The sham of caste has crumbled,
Man knows his brother’s worth,
And these shall be of one blood,
When the new dawn greets the earth.”

Mr. Linscott, Superintendent of Schools:
Our freshman year, 1913, also marked the beginning of Sedgwick High School and how glad we were to enter our picturesque little building, no words can express.  We have always felt sure of your cooperation and desires for our welfare.  It is within your power to do so much for the best interests of our school and we feel sure that in the years to come, as well as in the years we have been connected with the school, you will perform your duty with faithfulness.  Therefore in the name of the senior class of Sedgwick High School I thank you for your kindness.

What can we say to you?  You hold a very warm place in our hearts.  Your kindness to us, patience with us and care over us we never can forget.  We met as strangers but your reception of us made us at once feel that we were among friends, and never have we felt that your interest in us has lessened though we have often wondered at your forbearance.  It is with feelings of deepest sadness that we realize the time has come when our pleasant relations as teachers and pupils must cease. We go, feeling that we are the better for having known you, and leave with you one word, farewell.

We ask you to persevere in your school-work, assuring you that you will never regret it.  We have enjoyed the happy hours spent with you and as we say goodbye we hope you will profit by our mistakes and prove a credit to this school. Farewell.

Citizens of Sedgwick and friends:
What can I say to you?  What can I say? Better than silence is?  When I survey this throng of faces turned to meet my own Friendly and fair, and not to me unknown. How can we thank you for your aid and the goodwill you have felt toward our class?  In everything we have undertaken, you have shown a readiness to help which has done much toward making it a success.  We feel that in you we have true friends and it has given us the greatest pleasure to see your faces here tonight.  For the class of 1918 I now say farewell.

We are about to separate and each go a different way.  There are no words deep enough or sad enough in my vocabulary with which to bid you farewell. It is not necessary to remind you of the good times we have had, the sad ones I fail to recall, they were so few.  No other class in this school has enjoyed more harmonious relations than ours.  We have proved more than conquerors over all discord and that should make our hearts swell with pride.

“Thanks for the sympathies you have shown!
Thanks for each kindly word, each silent token,
That teaches me when seeming most alone,
Friends are around me, though no word be spoken”

Farewell companions, comrades, classmates, friends!