Samuel Ullman

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Samuel Ullman (13 April 1840 - 21 March 1924) was an American businessman, poet and humanitarian.



Youth (1918)

Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
Published in From the Summit of Years, Four Score (1922) · Full text of "Youth" online at Samuel Ullman Museum
  • Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
    Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
    Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
    Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.
    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.
    When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.
    • Variant:
    • 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!

Quotes about Ullman

  • … trace Ullman’s American journey chronologically, first as a young man assisting his father in a grocery business in Port Gibson, then as a soldier for the Confederacy. Ullman survived injuries he suffered during the Civil War, returned to Port Gibson, and soon moved to the larger city of Natchez, where he established a business, entered the civic and religious life of the community, and married and began a family. Ullman was respected and rewarded for his service to the community, particularly during periods when deadly "fevers" moved up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Natchez. As many abandoned the unhealthy city, Ullman remained to run his and others’ businesses, to provide religious services for the temple congregation, and to serve as a civic leader. Ullman was elected a city alderman and was appointed to the city’s board of education. The black, as well as the white, community found him always impartial and fair, a rare attitude for that time and community.
    Seeking improved economic circumstances for his family, Ullman moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1884. In this New South city, he established a hardware store, joined a small Reform congregation, and was immediately placed on Birmingham’s board of education. As chairman of the board, he gave critical support for creation of a high school for blacks in the city, one of the few such schools anywhere in the South at that time. Ullman’s energy and charisma also won him a place on the city’s board of aldermen and a lengthy term as president of Temple Emanu-El. During a particularly tumultuous time for the temple, Ullman was asked to become the congregation’s rabbi, a rare if not unprecedented act in American Judaism. Ullman also served on local and state commissions that sought to reform economic and political processes within the state. … His poetic essay "Youth" inspired vision and confidence in [Japan] after World War II … [and] entered the psyche and culture of America.
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