Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2017
Gijón (Asturias) 1797
The first time that I had the honor of addressing you from this podium, on that memorable and glorious day on which, with the purest joy and hopes of promise, we opened the doors of this new Institute and welcomed you to it, you learned that my first care was to lift your eyes to the importance and usefulness of the sciences that you had come to study. And if there was any merit in my words, if the ardent zeal of procuring your good fortune lent them any strength, you will not have forgotten the tender solicitude with which I exhorted you to embrace the truth that I presented. And? After three years, when you have come to the glorious end of this cycle [of your studies], and as we prepare to present to the public the first fruits of your diligence and our conduct, must we continue to persuade and convince you of such a well- known truth?
Perhaps this is what public opinion demands from us, and we would acquiesce to it were we not certain of swaying it more strongly with deeds instead of words. Yes, gentlemen, despite the progress achieved through our constancy and yours, and in the midst of the justice with which it is honored by those good souls that, mindful of the importance of public education, yearn for its improvement, I know that malignant spirits hover around you, censuring your efforts. Enemies of useful instruction and of the public good, which depends upon it, they discredit the objects of your teaching and, under the false pretenses of friendship and compassion, they question its advantages and the benefits you will gain from it. It is the struggle of light against darkness that I foresaw and spoke to you about on that solemn day; and it is faced by all public establishments that wage war on ignorance and aspire to promote true instruction.