Source: Public Health Papers and Reports
Source type: journal
Document type: public address
Document title: “Address of Welcome”
Author(s): Wilcox, Ansley
Date of publication: 1902
Volume number: 27
Issue number: none
|Wilcox, Ansley. “Address of Welcome.” Public Health Papers and Reports 1902 v27: pp. 14-16.|
|Ansley Wilcox (public addresses); McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley (death: personal response).|
The following excerpt comprises two nonconsecutive portions of this public address (pp. 14-15 and p. 16). Omission of text within the excerpt is indicated with a bracketed indicator (e.g., [omit]).
From title page: Presented at the Twenty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, Buffalo, N. Y., September 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20, 1901.
From page 14: By Ansley Wilcox, Buffalo, N. Y.
Address of Welcome [excerpt]
Under the shadow of an awful calamity, which
has pierced through the heart of this community and spread instantly over the
nation and the civilized world, we are called upon to welcome to the city of
Buffalo the members of the American Public Health Association. Our mayor, an
honored member of your profession, is following the mortal remains of the late
President to their last resting place, and I am suddenly required to express,
however inadequately, the sentiments which fill our hearts as you enter this
house of mourning.
It is well that the serious duties of life call us away from too protracted brooding over such affliction. Men like yourselves, who must work, to whom the world looks for the performance of daily and hourly duties needed for its protection and advancement, while they must stop their ordinary avocations long enough to pay their tribute of respect to the departed and to share in the national sorrow, must also turn back soon to face the stern necessities of their daily duties and their allotted public and private tasks. Pleasure-seeking and merrymaking at such a time are far from the hearts of every one. And so it is, as you have been apprised, that all forms of entertainment which were prepared to give you special pleasure during your convention here have been abandoned by unanimous consent. But the serious work of this convention must go forward, and the friends and fellow-laborers who meet here will feel their hearts and their minds sanctified to their tasks and inspired to purer and better achievements by the fiery trial through which we have all been passing.
Indeed there is something peculiarly fitting in a meeting of minds devoted to the protection and advancement of the public health at a time like the present. It is the public health and the public welfare to which your attention will be devoted,—it is the public health and the public welfare which has just received so severe a blow. Wherever large bodies of men are gathered together in a community, their mere contiguity creates a necessity for certain precautions to protect them from evil influences emanating from one another, either voluntary or involuntary. These influences, of course, may be physical, affecting the bodily health, or mental, affecting in other and even more subtle ways the well-being of mankind. This necessity is the basis of all government, and you, gentlemen, in your discussions here, will be  shedding light upon one and a most important branch of our present governmental obligations.
We are proud too of our Pan-American Exposition,
of its beauty and of its instructiveness. And among other features of the Exposition
we place high its healthfulness, and, so far, the blessed avoidance of all of
those dangers of disease which necessarily accompany the gathering together
of such large masses.
Our local representatives will take delight in showing you these things, and in learning from your experience how to improve upon them.
And when you visit our Exposition first at night, and see its loveliness emerge from the early darkness with a gradual glow of splendor, as the electrical illumination begins, and as you face that beautiful pinnacled tower, quivering with light at every point, which look down upon the Temple of Music where our President was shot down by the assassin, you will feel, I know, that you stand before a shrine, where all that is good and beautiful in the hearts and minds of this nation has produced its best results,—a shrine which ought to be, and will be, visited during the few brief weeks of its remaining existence by all of the American people, rich and poor alike, with feelings of reverence and awe for the achievement which it represents and for the good man, our national leader, who fell at its feet. You will think of his unwilling successor, still throbbing with the energy and fearlessness of youth, but serious and conservative through experience and the growing wisdom of advancing years, whose honest, manly heart, heavily laden with new cares, is now following the body of his former chief from Washington to Canton, and you will say “God bless him, may his achievements be equal to his high purposes!”
And then, when you look again upon that vibrant tower of light, and think of the tragedy which was enacted at its feet, and of the way in which the American people calmed themselves in their intense grief, and the reins of power dropping from lifeless hands were taken up peacefully by the strong hands of the appointed successor, with no dissension and no change of the great national policies which the people had approved, you will say again with heartfelt joy, “Whatever may happen to our individual leaders, the government at Washington still lives, and in spite of defects and shortcomings, it towers among the nations of the earth, shedding brilliant and steadfast light, as our electric tower does amidst the beautiful buildings which surround it.”