(Speaking to the Civil War veterans in attendance) "You had to win as the soldiers of Washington had won before you, as we of the younger generation must win if ever the call should be made upon us to face a serious foe. Arms change, tactics change, but the spirit that makes the real soldier does not change. The spirit that makes for victory does not change.
It is just so in civic life. The problems change, but fundamentally the qualities needed to face them in the average citizen are the same. Our new and highly complex industrial civilization has produced a new and complicated series of problems. We need to face those problems and not run away from them. We need to exercise all our ingenuity in trying to devise some effective solution, but the only way in which that solution can be applied is the old way of bringing honesty, courage and common-sense to bear upon it. One feature of honesty and common-sense combined is never to promise what you do not think you can perform, and then never fail to perform what you have promised. And that applies to public life just as much as in private life."
It's no "Speak softly and carry a big stick," the now-famous line which, interestingly enough, Roosevelt had included in his speech exactly one year earlier at the Minnesota State Fair, yet the timeless wisdom of the above passage certainly demonstrates Roosevelt's ability to inspire and exhort the citizenry just as effectively as that better-known quote.
No Presidents will be gracing Westfield with their presence this Labor Day weekend, but that doesn't mean that the Green won't be a source of inspiration for the folks of Westfield just the same, as the 4th Annual "Westfield Arts on the Green" kicks off its "End of Summer Celebration," on Saturday, September 1. Running all three days of the long weekend, the cultural potpourri will be open for public perusal and participation from 9 a.m to 7 p.m. each day. For more information on the event, visit www.westfieldonweekends.org.
Here are a few old postcards of Westfield's Green, from the Shaffer Collection, kindly donated to EWM by historian Barbara Shaffer. Thanks Barbara!
Where's the statue of General Shepard? Postmarked January 22, 1909, this postcard was mailed over ten years prior to the erection of the tribute to one of Westfield's most-cherished towns-men and historical figures. The Shepard Monument, located south of the Green, celebrates its 88th birthday this coming Monday, having been originally dedicated on September 3, 1919.
The steeple of the Presbyterian Church can be seen in this postcard. In the 1840s, the area on the east-side of the Green was known as "Rum Row," and was a place where no respectable person desired to be seen, and where citizens concerned for their safety dared not tread after dark.
The Green has been the "Common Ground" for Westfield residents since the 1600s, when it was purchased by some of the city's earliest residents and donated for the use of grazing the livestock of Westfield citizens. Trees were planted on the Green as part of a citizen initiative in the mid-1800s. The "Shade Tree Fund" resulted in Elms being planted on the Green and along the main roads leading to it, giving Elm Street the name it has held since.
On a personal note, I can't pass the Green without thinking of my grandfather, who whiled away many an afternoon toward the end of his years sitting on the bench that faced the Post Office with his cronies, watching the world go by from this special patch of land that has itself seen the centuries roll through from its unique vantage point at the city's core.
As always, thanks for stopping by!
September 2, 2010 - Westfield's Green is getting an extreme makeover! Check out EWM post Westfield's Park Square Gets a(n) (Extreme) Makeover for some photographs from the area, snapped two years apart (2008/2010).