Manvotional: “Youth” by Samuel Ullman

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 14, 2009 · 10 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals


When famed War Correspondent Col. Frederick Palmer called on Douglas MacArthur at his Manila Headquarters, his most vivid memory of the meeting was that of the three frames hanging over the General’s desk. On the left, a portrait of Washington. On the right, a portrait of Lincoln. And between them, a framed version of a poem called “Youth” by Samuel Ullman. He also hung it in his office in Tokyo when he took over as Supreme Allied commander of Japan, and would continue to quote it in the many speeches he gave his “old” age. Because of his influence in Japan, the poem became very popular among the Japanese, and it is still more well known and beloved there than in the West.


By 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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bill November 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Absolutely, I agree 100%.

I just turned 50, and feel like I’m 30 (and some days 17).
It’s all an adventure, get off your ass, get out and live, welcome the fears, see where they come from and grow damnit!!

I wasn’t always like this, it took a divorce at 47 and a bunch of personal growth work to recognize what I have and jump back on the adventure train.

If I can do it, so can you.


2 Robert November 15, 2009 at 7:51 am

Thanks for posting this. Today is my 44th birthday, and this made for a great read first thing in the a.m.

3 Nicholas November 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I love that last line: “may you die young at 80!” I have seen this in so many old people, and boy is it true. Their enthusiasm in their upper years stands in stark contrast to so many jaded teenagers of today who have experienced it all and who feel no wonder…

4 chontz November 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

thanks for the post…immediately reminds me of my grandfather who had a great military career as a doctor and served in ww2 still never lost his sense of curiosity and wonder. he always listened to me, what a thrill it was for me as a kid to teach him something.

5 Wes Roberts November 16, 2009 at 12:40 am

…at the wildoldeman age of 67, I concur
…as posted on my blog while on a trip to the northwest

6 Sir Lancelot November 16, 2009 at 2:14 am

My own mother is the youngest person I know.

7 Hearing Aids November 17, 2009 at 10:49 am

I was told once the day you stop acquiring stories and just start telling them is the day that you’ve grown old. Love the sentiment, and the poem.

8 James Withey November 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm

If I could be half the man my father was It would be great. He was always there for me and tried his best at everything and was always learning until he went on the greatest adventure when he went to meet God.

9 winston g. wright January 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I enjoyed the poem Great. I have always said that: “you should live when you are alive,so that you may be dead when you die: you should not be a living dead all your life” and also, I have often said:
“I was born an optimist…. and I think I am going to die an optimist…
which means that I am going to be an optimist…ALL my life”

That being so I am always going to be :yuong at heart”

Winston G.

10 Rohit Ramachandran June 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

Beautiful passage. Perfectly agreeable. By these standards, I’m considerably older than my grandfather.

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