Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Carl Schurz Monument

Looking over Moriningside Park from the top of the grand staircase, a bronze of Carl Schurz by sculptor Karl Bitter keeps a watchful eye on Columbia students who might stray east after dark. My grandmother warned me not to go east of this park or even to go into the park at all. Fortunately, times have changed and so has the park and its reputation.

Carl Schurz (1829-1906) was a German-born Civil War general, U.S. senator, and secretary of the Interior for President Rutherford Hayes. Unfortunately, he is best remembered today for a single line in a speech opposing American actions in the Spanish-American War:

I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions, or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: "Our country, right or wrong!" They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions, and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country -- when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."

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