Baruch entered the College of the City of New York at 14 years of age.
Entrance requirements were high; standards were strict, with examinations held twice a term; and those who could not keep up were dropped. I entered the class of about three hundred, of whom fifty were graduated, although many of those dropping out were economic rather than academic casualties (My Own Story, 54).
Already athletic in College, Baruch continued to practice boxing at a gym on 28th between Madison and Fifth Avenue.
When I was about twenty-two I posed for a photograph showing me with a mustache and curly black, almost kinky hair, and with muscular arms folded across a bare chest. That photograph still stands on my living room table, and when I look at it I am reminded of how I had changed from the fat little boy who first came to New York (My Own Story, pg. 66).
Baruch Towards the Later Part of His Life
Baruch Over the Years
America was an adolescent, unfinished country when I was born. The first transcontinental railroad had been completed less than two years before my birth, and the passing of the American frontier did not occur until almost ten years after. As a child, I listened to my great-grandmother tell stories of the American Revolution – stories which she had heard from mother who lived through it – and of the War of 1812, which was part of her own girlhood memories. Through the eyes of these relatives and my own life, I have enjoyed a virtual eyewitness account of our country’s development since Independence.
Comparing the world in which I live now with the one into which I was born, I might just as well have been born one hundred and ninety, instead of ninety, years ago. Scarcely anything we now consider indispensable to normal living existed in the land of my birth. It was a world without automobiles or airplanes; without radio, television, or movies; without miracle drugs, electric home appliances, fountain pens, or frozen foods. The rate of our progress – of material progress – staggers the imagination. It took men thousands of years to find a substitute for the oxcart, but in the fifty years they have learned how to fly above the earth and to explore the very precincts of the moon. Every day we learn of some fantastic new development in medicine, transportation, communication.
Still, I have noticed that some people – young people in particular – take the wonders of this age pretty much for granted. I suppose that this is so because it is hard to sustain a sense of fantasy in the face of many marvels which science and technology pour out week after week. But when one can look back as far as I can, and remember that the working of a kitchen tap once filled him with wonder, he can truly appreciate the fantastic changes which have taken place and gain the true perspective of age.
I have had a long, long life – a full one and a good one. Sometimes I stop whatever I am doing to wonder at the good fortune I have had in this lengthy pilgrimage. I have had a loving family, many devoted and loyal friends, good health (and what a blessing to have it still), all the material comforts a man could want (and these are by no means unimportant). But above all, I have had the opportunity to serve my country. This has meant most to me.
America has always been considered the Land of Opportunity. It has given its citizens advantages and liberties which no other people can claim. I cannot say that I have discharged the debt I owe this country for what it has given me, but in good conscience I can say I have tried (The Public Years, 415-414).