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The University of Hard Knocks - Preamble

The University of Hard Knocks

by Ralph Parlette

The School That Completes Our Education

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son"--Revelation 21:7.

"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks Sermons in stones, and good in everything."


Why It Is Printed

MORE than a million people have sat in audiences in all parts of the United States and have listened to "The University of Hard Knocks." It has been delivered to date more than twenty-five hundred times upon lyceum courses, at chautauquas, teachers' institutes, club gatherings, conventions and before various other kinds of audiences. Ralph Parlette is kept busy year after year lecturing, because his lectures deal with universal human experience.

"Can I get the lecture in book form?" That continuous question from audiences brought out this book in response. Here is the overflow of many deliveries.

"What is written here is not the way I would write it, were I writing a book," says Ralph Parlette. "It is the way I say it. The lecture took this unconscious colloquial form before audiences. An audience makes a lecture, if the lecture survives. I wish I could shake the hand of every person who has sat in my audiences. And I wish I could tell the lecture committees of America how I appreciate the vast amount of altruistic work they have done in bringing the audiences of America together. For lecture audiences are not drawn together, they are pushed together."

The warm reception given "The University of Hard Knocks" by the public, has encouraged the publishers to put more of Mr. Parlette's lectures into book form, "Big Business" and "Pockets and Paradises" are now in preparation as this, the third edition of "The University of Hard Knocks" comes from the press.


SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS--The lecturer the delivery wagon--The sorghum barrel--Audience must have place to put lecture--Why so many words

The University of Hard Knocks

I. THE BOOKS ARE BUMPS--Every bump a lesson--Why the two kinds of bumps--Description of University--"Sweet are the uses of Adversity"--Why children are not interested

II. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDLESS KNOCKS, the bumps that we bump into--Getting the coffee-pot--Teaching a wilful child--Bumps make us "stop, look, listen"--Blind man learns with one bump--Going up requires effort--Prodigals must be bumped--The fly and the sticky fly-paper--"Removed" and "knocked out"

III. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDFUL KNOCKS, the bumps that bump into us--Our sorrows and disappointments--How the piano was made--How the "red mud" becomes razor-blades--The world our mirror--The cripple taught by the bumps--Every bump brings a blessing--You are never down and out

IV. "SHAKE THE BARREL"--How we decide our destinies--Why the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down--The barrel of life sorting people--How we hold our places, go down, go up--Good luck and bad luck--The girl who went up--The man who went down--The fatal rattle--We must get ready to get--Testimonials and press notices--You cannot uplift people with derrick--No laws can equalize--Help people to help themselves--We cannot get things till we get ready for them

V. GOING UP--How we become great--We must get inside greatness-- There is no top--We make ourselves great by service--the first step at hand--All can be greatest--Where to find great people--A glimpse of Gunsaulus

VI. THE PROBLEM OF "PREPAREDNESS"--Preparing children for life--Most "advantages" are disadvantages--Buying education for children--The story of "Gussie" and "Bill Whackem"--Schools and books only give better tools for service--"Hard knocks" graduates-- Menace of America not swollen fortunes but shrunken souls-- Children must have struggle to get strength--Not packhorse work-- Helping the turkeys killed them--the happiness of work we love-- Amusement drunkards--Lure of the city--Strong men from the country-- Must save the home towns--A school of struggle--New School experiment

VII. THE SALVATION OF A "SUCKER"--You can't get something for nothing--The fiddle and the tuning--How we know things--Trimmed at the shell game--My "fool drawer"--Getting "selected to receive 1,000 per cent"--You must earn what you own--Commencement orations--My maiden sermon--The books that live have been lived--Singer must live songs--Successful songs written from experience--Theory and practice--Tuning the strings of life

VIII. LOOKING BACKWARD--Memories of the price we pay--My first school teaching--Loaning the deacon my money--Calling the roll of my schoolmates--At the grave of the boy I had envied--Why Ben Hur won the chariot race--Pulling on the oar

IX. GO ON SOUTH!--The book in the running brook--The Mississippi keeps on going south and growing greater--We generally start well, but stop--Few go on south--The plague of incompetents--Today our best day, tomorrow to be better--Birthdays are promotions--I am just beginning--Bernhardt, Davis, Edison--Moses begins at eighty--Too busy to bury--Sympathy for the "sob squad"--Child sees worst days, not best--Waiting for the second table--Better days on south--Overcoming obstacles develops power--Go on south from principle, not praise--Doing duty for the joy of it--Becoming the "Father of Waters"--Go on south forever!

X. GOING UP LIFE'S MOUNTAIN--The defeats that are victories-- Climbing Mount Lowe--Getting above the clouds into the sunshine-- Each day we rise to larger vision--Getting above the night into the eternal day--Going south is going upward

Some Preliminary Remarks

LADIES and Gentlemen: I do not want to be seen in this lecture. I want to be heard. I am only the delivery wagon. When the delivery wagon comes to your house, you are not much interested in how it looks; you are interested in the goods it brings you. You know some very good goods are sometimes delivered to you in some very poor delivery wagons.

So in this lecture, please do not pay any attention to the delivery wagon--how much it squeaks and wheezes and rattles and wabbles. Do not pay much attention to the wrappings and strings. Get inside to the goods.

Really, I believe the goods are good. I believe I am to recite to you some of the multiplication table of life--not mine, not yours alone, but everybody's.

Can Only Pull the Plug!

Every audience has a different temperature, and that makes a lecture go differently before every audience. The kind of an audience is just as important as the kind of a lecture. A cold audience will make a good lecture poor, while a warm audience will make a poor lecture good.

Let me illustrate:

When I was a boy we had a barrel of sorghum in the woodshed. When mother wanted to make ginger-bread or cookies, she would send me to the woodshed to get a bucket of sorghum from that barrel.

Some warm September day I would pull the plug from the barrel and the sorghum would fairly squirt into my bucket. Later in the fall when it was colder, I would pull the plug but the sorghum would not squirt. It would come out slowly and reluctantly, so that I would have to wait a long while to get a little sorghum. And on some real cold winter day I would pull the plug, but the sorghum would not run at all. It would just look out at me.

I discovered it was the temperature.

I have brought a barrel of sorghum to this audience. The name of the sorghum is "The University of Hard Knocks." I can only pull the plug. I cannot make it run. That will depend upon the temperature of this audience. You can have all you want of it, but to get it to running freely, you will have to warm up.

Did You Bring a Bucket?

No matter how the sorghum runs, you have to have a bucket to get it. How much any one gets out of a lecture depends also upon the size of the bucket he brings to get it in. A big bucket can get filled at a very small stream. A little bucket gets little at the greatest stream. With no bucket you can get nothing at Niagara.

That often explains why one person says a lecture is great, while the next person says he got nothing out of it.

What It's All About

Here is a great mass of words and sentences and pictures to express two or three simple little ideas of life, that our education is our growing up from the Finite to the Infinite, and that it is done by our own personal overcoming, and that we never finish it.

Have you noticed that no sentence, nor a million sentences, can bound life? Have you noticed that every statement does not quite cover it? No statement, no library, can tell all about life. No success rule can alone solve the problem. You must average it all and struggle up to a higher vision.

We are told that the stomach needs bulk as well as nutriment. It would not prosper with the necessary elements in their condensed form. So abstract truths in their lowest terms do not always promote mental digestion like more bulk in the way of pictures and discussions of these truths. Here is bulk as well as nutriment.

If you get the feeling that the first personal pronoun is being overworked, I remind you that this is more a confession than a lecture. You cannot confess without referring to the confesser.

To Everybody in My Audience

I like you because I am like you.

I believe in you because I believe in myself. We are all one family. I believe in your Inside, not in your Outside, whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.

I believe in the Angel of Good inside every block of human marble. I believe it must be carved out in The University of Hard Knocks.

I believe all this pride, vanity, selfishness, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and human frailty are the Outside that must be chipped away.

I believe the Hard Knocks cannot injure the Angel, but can only reveal it.

I hope you are getting your Hard Knocks.

I care little about your glorious or inglorious past. I care little about your present. I care much about your future for that is to see more of the Angel in you.

The University of Hard Knocks

On To Chapter 1...

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