Skip to main content

Transcription of General John J. Pershing's Speech

[May 4, 1933, Pulitzer Prize Ceremony, Plaza Hotel, New York, New York]

Chairman, Dr. Butler, Dr. [unintelligible], distinguished guests, fellow prize-winners, and friends:

When I was invited to attend this gathering, I had no idea that I should be able to accept, but the more I thought of it, the more I thought that I would not only enjoy the evening but make the acquaintance of several authors whom I had not read.

I traveled from Arizona, with a short rest, uh, to uh, New York, in order to be here, not letting it be known that I expected to be here, hoping thereby to really enjoy the evening by listening to others. Uhm, of course, I have enjoyed the evening up to date, but, uh, this particular feature of it, I couldn't say that I am enjoying. It's been . . . it's difficult enough to speak under any circumstances, but to speak to a worldwide audience through one of these things is a very difficult proposition. Some man said in introducing me one time, he said, "I'm very sure that General Pershing would much prefer to face a battery of artillery than to face this mike." He told the truth.

I have met a number of old friends here this evening. Uh, I couldn't mention them all, but I must mention one who was at one time a pupil of mine. I was, uh, a military instructor at the University of Nebraska in my younger day, and while I was there I taught elementary mathematics, and among my pupils where several, uh, boys and girls, who have since achieved distinction. One of them is present here tonight: Miss Willa Cather.

Miss Willa Cather was not particularly distinguished, uh, as a mathematician. And when they told me . . . when she wrote her first book, and somebody said, "Why, this is the same Willa Cather that used to go to school with you," I said, "Oh, it couldn't be because she didn't know anything at all about the subject."

I'm very glad to renew my acquaintance with Willa Cather at the . . . this head table. I wish somebody with better voice than I, and with more courage before the mike, would read out to the audience to whom this [unintelligible] the, uh, the the the number of distinguished people who are here tonight. There are six hundred people here tonight. Of course some are more distinguished than others, but, uh, uh, uh, they might, uh, at least read out the names of those that sit at the head table. I'm very sure that the, uh, that the, uh, American audience, if any are listening in here, would be glad to listen to those names. I have, uh, I have taken the place, my place as a pinch hitter, and, uh, spoken, uh, more than my allotted three minutes, and, uh, I apologize for permitting myself to be persuaded to do this bit.