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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 2099
AUTHOR: Samuel Ullman (1840–1924)
QUOTATION: Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a tempermental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every being’s heart a love of wonder; the sweet amazement at the stars and starlike things and thoughts; the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what comes next, and the joy in the game of life.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, grandeur, courage, and power from the earth, from men and from the Infinite—so long are you young. When the wires are all down and the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then are you grown old, indeed!
ATTRIBUTION: SAMUEL ULLMAN, “Youth.”—Jane Manner, The Silver Treasury, Prose and Verse for Every Mood, pp. 323–24 (1934). This version is longer and also has minor variations in wording and punctuation from that in a privately printed edition of Ullman’s poems, From the Summit of Years, Four Score (n.d.). The oft-quoted “you are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt,” etc., is missing in From the Summit of Years… fourth paragraph:
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

General Douglas MacArthur quoted the entire poem without attribution on his seventy-fifth birthday, in a speech to the Los Angeles County Council, American Legion, Los Angeles, California, January 26, 1955.—Representative Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, p. 85 (1964). Senate Doc. 88–95.

MacArthur had this framed over his desk when visited in Manila by war correspondent Colonel Frederick Palmer, according to an article in This Week Magazine condensed in the December 1945 issue of The Reader’s Digest, p. 1, which said, “The General has had it in sight ever since it was given to him some years ago … it is based on a poem written by the late Samuel Ullman of Birmingham, Ala.”

Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn’s seventy-eighth birthday fell upon the opening day of the second session of the 86th Congress. “During the January 6 [1960] ceremonies someone remembered what General Douglas MacArthur had said on his own seventy-fifth birthday and thought it applied quite well to Rayburn.”—C. Dwight Dorough, Mr. Sam, chapter 22, p. 546 (1962). There followed an excerpt of this poem, but it is not to be found in the Congressional Record account of the day, so perhaps the remembrance was an informal one.