Michael Velchik: “Of a Gate to Harvard Yard”

Latin oration at Harvard Commencement 2012

Michael Velchik

The Latin Salutatory is an old tradition at Harvard (read more about its history), and is the only student speech still given in a language other than English. (At the earliest Commencement ceremonies, none were in English.)

Latin orators "usually exploit the absurdity of talking about contemporary things in an ancient language, and draw attention to that incongruity," says Pope professor of the Latin language and literature R.J. Tarrant, who coaches the student speakers on pronunciation and delivery. The speech by this year's orator, Michael Velchik ’12, was no exception. Clichéd jokes become new in Latin. For example: "For some of you, this is the climax; life is only downhill from here. You will spend the rest of your life always looking backwards and often reminding those around you that you went to college in Boston—well, actually, in Cambridge..." (Aliis gradum suscipere gradatio vitae est, reliqua via prona. Reliquam vitam teretis semper recordantes saepeque monentes circumstantes vos cooptatos esse in quoddam collegium Bostoniae situm, re vera Cantabrigiae...) Or: "Having been sorted on that festive and fatal day into Houses, a fortunate group to the Quad, a more fortunate group to Houses overlooking the Charles River, and the most fortunate group to Dunster House" (Tum illo die festivo ac fatali alii beati admissi in Hortum Quadratum, alii beatiores ad domus Flumini Carolo adiacentes, alii beatissimi ad Domum Dunsteriensem). Velchik, a classics concentrator from Dunster, even worked in a reference to "Linsanity" in Latin.

Sub topics

You might also like

Claudine Gay in First Post-Presidency Appearance

At Morning Prayers, speaks of resilience and the unknown

The Dark History Behind Chocolate

A Harvard course on the politics and culture of food

Harvard College Reinstitutes Mandatory Testing

Applicants for the class of 2029 must submit scores.

Most popular

Harvard College Reinstitutes Mandatory Testing

Applicants for the class of 2029 must submit scores.

AWOL from Academics

Behind students' increasing pull toward extracurriculars

Claudine Gay in First Post-Presidency Appearance

At Morning Prayers, speaks of resilience and the unknown

More to explore

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Capturing the American South

Photographs at the Addison Gallery of American Art 

The Happy Warrior Redux

Hubert Humphrey’s liberalism reconsidered