OF THE EXHIBITION OF COLONIAL
AND FEDERAL PORTRAITS AT
When I was invited to speak on this occasion, it seemed clear to me in very general terms what ought to be said.★ The occasion being the visit to my native city of one of the very old American art collections, a collection that goes back to important eighteenth-century beginnings in American art, my theme should obviously be Bowdoin's connection with the long span of esthetic creation in America. But how to make the point was another matter.
I am sure that you have all agreed to deliver speeches at one time or another, and thus you are familiar with the psychological steps that follow. You write the date down in your engagement book and observe with a certain relief that your notation is pages and pages ahead of the part of the book in which you are writing your current engagements. The speech is clearly scheduled for some future time that may never come. In any case, months lie ahead, so why worry?
But the months pass, and one night you wake up unhappily from a dream in which you were back at college and suddenly faced with taking a final examination for a course you had forgotten you had enrolled in. After a few minutes of wakefulness the reference finally comes clear: That speech: it is now only a few weeks away. Panic!
I am old enough in the verbal game to feel confident that if you can only get started, you can continue and finish a speech--but how was I to get started? A Harvard man, how was I to speak to Bowdoin graduates about treasures they have always cherished?
My panic concerning this speech sailed in over the darkened fields of____________________