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  • Randall Short 4:20 pm on June 15, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: alabama, Japan, poetry   

    “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind” 

    The Birmingham Boys Choir is on tour in Japan this week. Among their pieces is a specially arranged version of the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman (1840-1924).

    BBC singers heading to the concert hall in downtown Chiba on Saturday evening

    About to take a bow at the Chiba City Cultural Center (6/13/09)

    Ullman’s story is a remarkable one. Jewish . . . German immigrant to Mississippi and, later, Alabama . . . Confederate soldier . . . businessman . . . father of six . . . advocate for laborers, women, and children . . . instrumental in the establishment of a high school for black children in Birmingham . . . lay rabbi . . . poet . . . This biographical sketch gives some of the broad brush strokes of that life story.

    Ullman’s poem “Youth” has a story all its own. “Youth” was introduced among Japanese postwar leaders because of General Douglas MacArthur’s apparent love for it. The poem hung in his office in Japan along with pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and MacArthur evidently introduced it to many Japanese who were instrumental in the rebuilding of Japan. This commemoration to Akio Morita of Sony (related to his contributions to the Samuel Ullman Museum) gives some idea of the poem’s personal significance to business leaders such as Morita, and why it is said to be included in “the top 5 texts loved by corporate management in Japan.”

    “Seishun” (“Youth”), by Samuel Ullman, translation by Yoshio Okada

    Here are links to several Japanese versions of “Youth,” followed by the original English version:
    3 well-known translations in print (with commentary on history of its translation)
    Translation by Masa Shimamura (private version that is faithful to the original)

    Samuel Ullman

    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.

    If you would like to read more about Samuel Ullman and this poem, you might try Margaret E. Armbrester’s biography: Samuel Ullman and “Youth”: The Life, the Legacy(Amazon).

    • Zawa 5:05 pm on June 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds very interesting… 🙂

    • Mike Wilhelm 12:22 am on June 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I like that poem. That is the first time I had read it.

    • nathaiel adap 8:43 pm on July 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply


    • Karyn 10:38 pm on October 12, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for bringing this poem to my attention. I hope you will find time to give us some more posts!

    • sad emo and Love poems 10:51 am on March 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I love this poem.This was recited on my class in English 3.Love this.

    • Anonymous 11:30 pm on April 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      During my college days.. we had a speech choir and we used this poem. Very Nice!

    • Rene Bernales 3:56 am on August 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I read this poem when I was in high school back in 1997, (Fall Issue of the Reader’s Digest). I loved it and memorized it by heart, but the one I knew and memorized has a longer version of the poem and somewhat different in a way that it has more lines of words in it.
      Is the above poem the “original” poem written by Samuel Ullman? and the one printed on the Reader’s Digest 1997 Fall Issue was a revised version? I want to know.

    • Randall Short 9:52 am on August 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      There are at least a couple of versions in circulation. A revised version became really popular overseas (especially in Japan) because that was the one that General Douglas MacArthur had. I’m not positive that the version I give is exactly the way Ullman penned it, but I think it is.

      Here’s a link to a Japanese site that shows two versions (scroll down to see the English). According to this blogger, the first version on his page is the revised version that MacArthur had:

      Let me know if you are able to confirm which one is original.

    • Jerre Levy 5:32 am on August 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      The second version is the way Samuel Ullman wrote it and as it is published in a privately-published book given to Samuel Ullman by his family on his 80th birthday. I am one of his great-granddaughters. He was my mother’s paternal grandfather.

    • Anonymous 9:39 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply


    • pau 10:15 pm on July 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      i also love the message of this poem….very well wrote…i want some poem like this one 🙂

    • Ahmer Zia 7:40 pm on May 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I read this poem in for the first time in Reader’s Digest, India. I don’t remember which year it was, could have been between 1989 and 1992, when I was 15-18 years old. I loved this one so much. Although the gist of it remained in my mind since then, this is the first time again that I have revisited it in its full form and it feels so good to read it again..thank you for sharing

    • i love you 9:04 pm on June 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      that was so great poem!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous 6:58 pm on July 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      thank you for making this heart touching poem.. 🙂 im so impressed

    • (blank) 10:51 am on September 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      AN awesome poem It almost made me cry, Such wonderful life youth is 🙂

    • Yasushi 4:07 pm on September 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I wonder if “predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.” might have been “predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” though all scripts I encountered were the first of these. “Timidity of the appetite” does not make sense to me. I wonder if it was a typo when the poem was published for the first time.

    • JAYAMOHAN 3:30 pm on March 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks. Read it in the 80’s. Yes Readers Digest, it was! Moulded my thinking around it. But lost it afterwards. Found it today while searching. What a blessing!

  • Randall Short 6:30 pm on June 8, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: , graded reading   

    BeeOasis: Big Things in Basic English 

    English is a second language, and sometimes third, for nearly all of my international and Japanese students. And though I do not teach English as a second language, per se, some of what I do in and out of the classroom amounts to that. This is especially true when it comes to evaluating reading comprehension and writing.

    Often it is difficult, without a significant level of personal interaction, to determine whether a student is struggling primarily because of weak English abilities or primarily because of incomprehension of the subject (to some degree, of course, it is usually both/and). In fact, the same can be said about native English speakers who read and write below their “grade level” (what percentage is that in the U.S., I wonder).


    A person can attain a high level of comprehension when they understand 95% of the vocabulary in a given piece of writing (assuming that the syntax is not contorted, etc.). As understanding drops, comprehension breaks down. The typical person becomes increasingly frustrated, loses self-confidence, and develops self-defeating feelings and attitudes towards reading and, consequently, towards discussing and writing about their reading.

    I am collaborating with Joseph Poulshock, one of my colleagues at Tokyo Christian University, and Sang Valte, a wiz at website design, to do something about these and other problems. We are building a website ( with hundreds, and eventually thousands, of short “stories” (more like brief articles and essays) about topics spanning the liberal arts, sciences, and current events.


    We are not re-creating the wheel. This is not a spin-off of Wikipedia, Newser, and the like. How is it different?

    Each “story” is composed or adapted to meet the criteria of one or more “graded” levels, or steps. For instance, the vocabulary terms used in the stories are determined as follows:

    • Step SE: 95% of the words are from the top 660 English words.
    • Step 1: 95% of the words are from the top 1000 English words.
    • Step 2: 95% of the words are from the top 2000 English words.
    • Step 3: 95% of the words are from the top 3000 English words.
    • Step 4: 95% of the words are from the top 4000 English words.
    • Step 5: 95% of the words are from the top 5000 English words.


    This approach has something to offer to people of various ages and English levels.

    Adult ESL learners and young native speakers reading at step 1, for example, can enjoy reading about “big ideas” in language they can understand. This will build confidence, make reading more pleasurable, and contribute to their liberal, and liberating, education.

  • Randall Short 12:04 am on June 8, 2009 Permalink  

    Re-learning my way around Weblogs at Harvard Law School 

    Back in 2003, while I was studying for my general exams at Harvard Divinity School, I started my first blog here. Unfortunately, I let it expire when Weblogs at HLS made some sort of major change that required some sort of major update on my part. My bad.

    I’m back. . . . Thank you, again.

    First posts can be a bit paralyzing. I’ll start by simply asking for help with one thing.

    Can someone tell me how to add plugins and widgets that don’t show up under “Manage Plugins” and “Widgets” in WordPress admin?

    Among other things, I would like to add various Twitter tools for displaying tweets, etc.

    I would appreciate any help with this.

    • Ed Gentry 1:14 am on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog world. Looking forward to your insight.

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