After the enthusiasm which followed the uncovering of the portrait had partially abated, Mr. Peabody arose and addressed the children as follows.
My Dear Young Friends:
Nearly two generations have passed away since I left this, my native Town, with probably less education than even the youngest among these I now address, and with no prospect of future success in life beyond that of any boy now before me who possesses good health, industry, and perseverance, with a heart and mind determined to make pure principles has guide. My course is well known, and I fear too much appreciated by our whole country, but praise, even but partially deserved tends to stimulate to extra exertion, both physically and morally, particularly the young, and I hope and pray that every one within the sound of my voice, may experience as I have the truth of these remarks, and deserve that pride and satisfaction which are sure to attend all those who do right, and benefit their fellow men.
All of you, my young friends, should aim at a high mark in this respect, and undoubtedly many of your number, of both sexes, will arrive at distinction in society, but neither my regard for truth or past experience will justify me in promising to any one of you that great success which has ever attended me. Scarcely one in an age attains to it, and I feel most sensibly that it is only by the guidance and blessings of my Heavenly Father from early life to my present advanced age, that I have been enabled to accomplish so much for the physical comforts of the needy, and the promotion of Knowledge and Morality for the present and future generations. As you advance in life you will find that years will appear short in comparison to those occupied by your studies at the present time. This is my second visit to my Native Land for thirty years, and the period appears brief to me. Time and Generations pass most rapidly.
Excerpted from Reception by George Peabody of the School Children of South Danvers, October 15, 1866, by Peabody Institute Library, 1866.