Psyche S. Bailey, Class of '91

It is the duty of a builder to carry out the plans put into his hands according to stipulated terms. He can justify no departure from these specifications, on the plea that something else will do as well. Being employed to do a certain piece of work in a certain way, he has no right to substitute his own notions for those of his employers.

When the workman commences to learn his trade, he places himself as an apprentice under some first class builder; then, after a thorough training, he becomes a master workman. Upon his skill depend his bread, shelter, and clothing; if he has spent his time profitably while an apprentice, his success will be assured. He must be acquainted with the qualities of all the different kinds of material, and be very particular what kind of material he uses. This is illustrated by a story I read when a small girl. It was about some ship-builders who used two small pieces of worm-eaten wood. The ship was very beautiful, and admired by every one. It sailed on the ocean many years. But, remember, those two pieces of worm-eaten wood were in the ship, and the worms had not been idle. In due time this beautiful vessel and many lives were lost, all from two bad pieces of wood, used by careless workmen.

In erecting buildings, first the foundation is laid. The necessity for a solid foundation has been so often discussed that it does not seem necessary to emphasize this point. After the foundation comes the structure. If a frame building, the rafters are next put up. How careful the builders must be in fitting and joining together every piece so as to have the work properly done. Think how long our State Capitol was in building, and what a number were at work! Now we have a beautiful structure, one of which Georgia can justly be proud.

Each of us is employed, not simply in building a structure made of wood or brick, but in building this great republic. School-mates, you will not be surprised when I say that some of the responsibilities of this building depend on you. You can help make the world what you would have it, because "Woman rules man and man rules the world." Thus it is very necessary that woman should possess all the qualities belonging to a good and honorable life.

Some one has said, "The prosperity of a country depends not on the strength of its fortifications, nor the beauty of its public buildings, but it consists in the number of its cultivated citizens, its men of education, culture, and true moral worth; here are to be found its true interest, its chief strength, its real power." Then to be true builders we must be educated, enlightened, and moral. Education does not consist alone in what we get from books. There must be education of the hand, the head, and, most important of all, the heart. Our hands must be trained to do well everything that needs to be done; our hearts to prompt us to perform all duties faithfully and keep the feet ever in the path of duty.

The educated, however, are not always the chief builders: because to be a chief builder in this great structure, we must not only be cultivated citizens, but we must have true moral worth. A man may be accomplished in art, literature, and science; and yet in honesty, virtue, truthfulness, and the spirit of duty, be worse than any poor and ignorant man. Intellectual capacity is sometimes associated with the meanest moral character. Then to be a successful builder we must be educated, enlightened, and of true moral character. We must be fully equipped for the work, and use every opportunity in helping others to build. We should not be selfish workmen and keep what we know to ourselves. Those that are prepared should help to prepare others.

Do not start too soon, but remain an apprentice until you are prepared. The great trouble is that the majority of workmen are not prepared. We do not know just how to start in helping others. We know enough, but do not know how to use what we know.

When I first began teaching, I was told by the commissioner to open school at eight o'clock in the morning and close at four in the afternoon. I had six scholars - a large number to begin with in cotton-picking time. So I began teaching a few minutes after devotions, and, with the exception of a few minutes' recess, I heard these six recite all day, with "The book right up before their eyes, shutting out all nature and its beauty." At last, one of the little girls, worried out with the book, remarked, "I never saw a teacher like you; you want to learn us all in one day." That child, though saucy, was perfectly right; teachers should be stopped when they overtax children in that way, even though the children themselves have to warn the teacher.
A few days after this, a little boy that had never been to school before was sent to me. I had to teach him the a, b, c's. When the time came for his lesson he could say as far as c and no farther. After being helped to the letter g he thought the next letter must be haw, so he said, "g haw." He had heard his father say "gee haw" when plowing, so he thought if g was a letter, haw must be one, too. If he had been shown the picture of some object and then taught to spell the word, and so on until all the letters in the alphabet had been learned, it would have been so much better.

Teachers are doing more good and moulding more character than any other class. A man holding any prominent position, who does not know how to teach, is unfit for the position. Doctors, judges, lawyers, and ministers all teach in their way. Teachers are performing the chief work in building this structure. You that are trying to elevate this race have a greater amount of work to do than any others. The Negro problem has been the great question for the last score of years, but the best way to solve it is by education. The true Negro teacher will give himself wholly to the elevation of this, our people. Teach them to love work, and, above all, teach them to save. They have the whole world to gain. Goldsmith says:
"Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at labor's earnest call."

"Master Builder," Spelman Messenger 8.4 (February 1892): 3.
Courtesy of the Spelman College Archive