Whitelaw Reid, editor of The New York Tribune, gave the Phi Beta Kappa address, “The Thing To Do.” Decrying the materialism and indulgence of the age, he described in detail and with several examples the rapid degradation of the social fabric.  “Nothing is more noticeable,” he said, “at the great centres of population and of National activity, or in any large section of what calls itself and is often called our best society, than this disappearance of the old foundation of character and action: this loss of profound, enduring, restful faith in anything.”

Reid turned eventually to “another side to the picture.  Admitting all faults and inconsistencies and hysterical alternations of heat and cold, our people are still the freest, most generous, most active and daring, our country is still in our eyes the best the sun shines on.”  The role of educated women in the revival and strengthening of these enduring, if endangered, aspects of American society was a pivotal one, Reid asserted.  “Outside the immediate and inestimable effect on the family, the conservative power of educated women will naturally show its first and perhaps its chief influence in the next greatest among the forces that guide the world—that of social life.  The will surely help to check its degradation.  The may make it regain its soothing relaxation, and its benign stimulus for the best in every one.  They may even give back to society the inspiration it once had for the leaders of the world’s work…. If the conduct of the so-called inner circles of society has sometimes seemed to justify this brazen uproar at their gates, so much greater the demand for the conservative influence and the real refinement that come from the high training of superior women.”     The New York Times