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Howe's speech in Batavia

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In 1866, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe was asked to give a keynote address for a ceremony entitled "Laying the Cornerstone" for a new institution for the blind in Batavia, New York. Howe pleaded with them not to open the institution, stating our commitment to providing education had gone astray.

“The human family is the unit of society. The family, as it was ordained by our great Father, with its ties of kith and kin; with its tender associations of childhood and youth; with its ties of affection and sympathy; with its fireside, its table and its domestic altar - there is the place for the early education of the child. His instruction may be had in school; his heart and character should be developed and molded at home . . .

“We should be cautious about such artificial communities, or those approaching them in character, for any children and youth; but more especially should we avoid them for those who have natural infirmities, or any marked peculiarity of mental organization. . . .

“They depend more than ordinary persons do for their happiness and for their support upon the ties of kindred, of friendship, and of neighborhood. All these, therefore, ought to be nourished and strengthened during childhood and youth, for it is then, and then only, that they take such deep root as to become strong, and life-lasting. . . The home of the blind and of the mute should be his native town or village; there, if possible, he should live during childhood and youth; there he should form his friendships; there, if he comes to need special aid, it will be given most readily and fitly; and there his old age will be cherished.

“Beware how you needlessly sever any of those ties of family, of friendship, of neighborhood, during the period of their strongest growth, lest you make a homeless man, a wanderer and a stranger. Especially beware how you cause him to neglect forming early relations and affection with those whose sympathy and friendship will be most important to him during life. . . .”

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