Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Letters

Cambridge 02138

Liberal arts, apolitical agendas, the middle class

September-October 2017

“Fair Harvard” and History

I was greatly surprised to find my name prominent in the lead sentence of “ ‘Puritans’ Passé?” (The College Pump, July-August, page 68), citing my initiation of a change, years ago, to the wording of the first line of “Fair Harvard.” I did that, of course, because I thought the original wording had become exclusive. In those days, entering classes were evolving toward 50 percent women, each of whom would soon become a daughter of Harvard, though Harvard sang only of its sons, its diminishing 50 percent.

I write my thanks for this mention from the City of Brotherly Love, where I have lived happily since 1956. Do you know that we have not had a Quaker mayor here, nor even a Quaker city councilor, to my knowledge, for many a long year, yet Philadelphia does not wince at all when referred to as the Quaker City? It respects the seed from which it grew. What is so different for Puritans at Harvard? Can we truly keep ancestors’ memory warm by denying their existence?

“Till the stock of the Puritans die” means “Till the end of time.” Reworded for the current Harvard, eking along with its underperforming endowment and diminishing federal funding, it could be made to read “Till the stocks and the bonds shall run dry,” but it would mean much the same thing, hopefully. The song is not asking us all to become Puritans! It is stating the hope that Harvard will continue its pursuit of Veritas forever. Veritas, in the guise of Truth, does get a mention, two lines earlier.

The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, overlooking “our ancestors” in the first verse of “Fair Harvard,” finds the final line of the second verse offensive. I write to ask: who is excluded by that last line, and not by “our ancestors”? Who is made not to belong by either set of words? If such a reference should make a non-Christian uncomfortable at Harvard, what does Memorial Church do to him or her? Is the time coming to convert that to a lecture hall?

Harvard was founded in Colonial times to supply ministers to an expanding Church. In nearly 400 years, it has grown very far beyond that initial purpose, but it was started to do that job. And actually, it continues fulfilling it, through the Divinity School. No spendid oak has ever earned the right to deny its origin as an acorn.

Kendric Packer ’48
Philadelphia

Speak Up, Please

Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to “Letters,” Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, or send comments by e-mail to [email protected].

 

Certainly it is up to Harvard’s own historians to defend Samuel Gilman’s stirring 1811 alma mater, “Fair Harvard.” But I am curious why there is pressure to erase the word “Puritans.” They were fundamental to Harvard’s founding and the founding of so many New England towns. Why deny history?

Instead, we should emulate an illustrious Amherst, New Hampshire, minister, Josiah G. Davis (Yale 1837), who said in 1874, in his “Historical Discourse” delivered at the centennial celebration of the construction of Amherst’s Congregational Meeting-House: “Each age gathers wisdom from the labors and researches of the preceding age. In every science, and in every art, we are constrained to acknowledge our indebtedness to the genius and industry of departed generations.”

The church itself just celebrated the 275th anniversary of its founding, when Daniel Wilkins (Harvard 1736) was ordained as the first minister and wrote the first church covenant, signed on November 22, 1741: a simple statement of beliefs to sustain the 14 families living in the wilderness settlement. Church and town government were one in Colonial America, where one church denomination was the established church and the minister was paid through local taxation.

Wilkins served as minister for 42 years, until 1783. Jeremiah Barnard (Harvard 1773) was engaged in 1779 to serve with Wilkins in his declining years and stayed until 1835. So for 94 years Harvard graduates led, served, and influenced the folks of a little New Hampshire town. Please honor these tough pioneer families who endured the New England wilderness under the wise and tenacious leadership of two humble Harvard graduates who devoted their entire careers to serving these rural families. Thanks to our “departed generation’s”collective stamina, faith, and hope, America and Amherst survived. Hopefully “Fair Harvard” will, too!

Anne Krantz
Historian, Congregational Church of Amherst
Amherst, N.H.

Liberal Arts

John Rosenberg’sAn Educated Core” (July-August, page 47) makes me wish I were starting college today under the Minerva model. Stephen Kosslyn’s “radical redesign” of the core addresses every weakness of “Gen Ed” as I knew it. Probably there is much tinkering still to be done.

To expect 18-year-olds to find their way among 10,000 course possibilities over four years is unrealistic and naive. I managed to stumble my way to an A.B. (English lit) and am still enjoying it. Today’s students, I believe, are ripe for the Minerva model and its flexibility. Thank you for an encouraging piece about “flipping” the liberal arts.

Bert Waters ’60
Brookline, Mass.

How can Harvard, given its recent history, be serious about this? Will they present an honest course in the glories of what we used to call Western Civilization, and the contributions to freedom and intellectual development/culture it produced? Or will it wallow 90 percent in the evils of the West and capitalism? You know exactly what I am talking about. Go to Middlebury College and find out; go to Berkeley. Harvard is not known for courage in this area.

Michael J. Brady, LL.B. ’67
Menlo Park, Calif.

Editor’s note: The article erroneously described the Yale-NUS curriculum’s space for concentrations, alongside students’ required 10 term-length common courses. It should have read: “Concentrations require a minimum of eight courses plus the capstone project; students are free to take more courses in their field, but not required to do so; in many U.S. colleges and universities without a core curriculum, major fields require 10, 12, or more courses.” We apologize for our error.

 

Editor John S. Rosenberg’s superb survey covers educational institutions old and new, including some in the making. For those with an interest in the topic, I suggest, in addition, taking a hard look at Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org).

Toastmasters doesn’t bill itself as a global university, yet it’s the closest educational enterprise that we have that might be considered a global university. Founded in 1924 to teach public speaking and leadership skills, today its offerings can be found in 142 countries, in multiple languages, with over 345,000 participants (students/members) meeting in some 16,000 classes (clubs). This nonprofit with zero faculty—participants teach and learn from each other—is entirely self-funded via modest membership fees.

Once a person has joined Toastmasters anywhere in the world, the organization maintains a record of his achievements. If he leaves his original club (through lack of interest, family needs, job change, etc.), he can, after any interval, resume membership in another club, nearby or half a world away.

Toastmasters’ current educational offerings involve two tracks, public speaking and leadership, usually pursued concurrently. After receiving an award for completing the initial 10 speaking projects, a member chooses from among 15 advanced speaking topics, each containing 5 projects. The advanced topics are:

  • The Entertaining Speaker
  • Technical Presentations
  • Speaking to Inform 
  • Persuasive Speaking
  • Public Relations
  • Communication on Video
  • Facilitating Discussion
  • Storytelling
  • Specialty Speeches
  • Interpretive Reading
  • Speeches by Management
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • The Professional Speaker
  • Special Occasion Speeches
  • Humorously Speaking

As an example of diversity, consider my club. It includes a 19-year-old who has just finished his first year at a local community college, several folks in their eighties, plus others of in-between ages. We have two active duty Marines, other members working for high-tech firms, and members from a good variety of various races.

Toastmasters is a noteworthy example of “What to Teach and How to Teach It”!

Richard G. Rettig ’51
Oceanside, Calif.

I have just finished reading your excellent article on two new approaches to the concept of a “liberal education.” I have been interested in the concept of a general core since I attended Colgate University (1951-1955), which featured a radical new core based on general education versus taking a distribution of courses in a range of disciplines. My file on the Core Curriculum is more than an inch and half thick featuring a series of articles over the years from The Colgate Scene describing the evolving Core and similar articles on Harvard’s General Education in Liberal Arts.

Universities are organized like businesses into functional departments based on subjects like history, chemistry, or English literature. General Education by definition cuts across these departments. Professors have told me for years that you get promoted in your discipline and it does not help your advancement to teach a cross-disciplinary core course that requires extra effort to prepare and teach, as described in Rosenberg’s article.

Over time both Colgate and Harvard have had groups of professors study the issue and come up with new lists of what should be taught and how. I have always thought that the real answer comes from older alumni telling you what was good and bad and useful about their core experience in life over time.

In this period of “disruption” in the University with serious cost and content questions, this article raises the key issues and gives two examples of new approaches being tried. I think the emphasis on “how to learn” is as important on the question of what to teach.

Robert Youker, M.B.A. ’61
Rockville, Md.

Political Agendas?

Clearly Justin Reeves has a political agenda (research described in “Star Power in Politics,” by Jonathan Shaw, Right Now, July-August, page 11).

No mention is made by him that limiting the number of candidates by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the 2016 U.S. elections led to the DNC’s chairwoman resigning amid allegations of corruption.

Also, Hillary Clinton had far greater name recognition as a politician and even as a “celebrity,” since she was the wife of a two-term president and was later a senator. Despite this, she lost to a virtually unknown Barack Obama in 2008. Furthermore, even after she was secretary of state for four years (becoming even more famous), she lost to businessman Donald Trump, recognized only in a certain small section of an industry.

Could it be that Hillary’s “facts” and ideas, including what she is alleged to have done (or not done), played a role in a “more thoughtful outcome”—and that it is not due, as Reeves suggests, to “allowing voters to choose among smaller numbers of candidates”?

In Chile in 1970, Marxist Salvador Allende won the plurality among only three candidates; the majority wanted a non-Marxist, but the other two split the vote. A more likely theory to Reeves’s conclusion is that competition is obviously good even in politics. Instead, he allows himself to come up with a theory that appears politically biased.

Victor Felszegi ’78
New York City

Justin Reeves responds: Thank you for reading the article and offering your thoughts. Please allow me to clarify a few things about the study that may not have been apparent from the brief Harvard Magazine write-up.

First, while the article couches things in an American context and triggers readers to consider the recent 2016 election, the study in fact originated in 2011 with the bulk of the data and findings coming out of field work that was conducted in 2013— far predating Trump’s candidacy. It was a positive empirical exercise focused primarily on Japan, and the only “agenda” to speak of was exploring the consequences of a particular set of electoral rules—rules that don’t apply to the U.S. general election or to the Chilean presidential race of 1970. There was no mention of Clinton or the DNC here because it simply wasn’t relevant.

There is another part of the same project that didn’t have to do with electoral systems and therefore wasn’t discussed much at the talk given at Harvard due to time constraints. That part of the study deals precisely with the issue you raise—namely, perceptions of corruption redounding to the benefit of “outsider” candidates who also enjoy high degrees of name recognition. There, another voter experiment was employed in Japan to isolate the impact that public distrust of establishment politicians has on support for celebrity candidates.

To be clear, I do argue that the mechanism highlighted by the magazine article is applicable to U.S. primary elections when there is a crowded field of co-partisans running, and I do believe it played a role in Trump’s early success against other Republican competitors. I agree wholeheartedly that Clinton’s baggage and the DNC scandal played a strong role in the outcome of the 2016 general election, but I doubt it did anything to give Trump an edge over candidates like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina among an exclusively Republican electorate. That, I would argue, had a lot to do with mere name recognition.

If we’re going to say anything normative about the findings of the study, the takeaway is not that “more competition is bad,” but that in some contexts it poses serious trade-offs. What contexts? Well, particularly when strong informative cues like partisanship don’t allow voters to narrow their choice options.

The Middle Class

For many years I have wondered why our leaders across the political spectrum commonly refer to “the middle class” in our country. Andrea Louise Campbell, in reviewing a new book by Joan C. Williams, includes this term in “Class Cluelessness” (July-August,page 60). The review does not use the term “upper class,” but it does refer to “working class.” Clearly, many of us find the terminology awkward with respect to class, perhaps because we assume we live in a classless society. Why not simply refer to “middle income” instead of “middle class,” and avoid using other labels that place us in obsolete “class” categories?

David A. Rigney ’60, S.M. ’62
Professor emeritus, Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

Harvard Magazine’s review of Joan C. Williams’s White Working Class, like several other books and articles written since the disastrous election of Donald Trump, dwells upon the author’s emphasis on how badly those on the left got it wrong, about how “clueless” we were—and are—in our assumptions about Trump’s supporters. Somehow, it’s our fault that Trump now sits in the White House making a mess of virtually everything he touches.

She seems to ignore some deep-seated cultural behaviors that, while hardly defining every Trump voter, do in fact describe what I’m convinced is a large majority of them.

The ugly truth is that many of these folks make no effort to understand public policy or even the basics of how government and society work. Unless inspired by hate radio, they’d remain politically disengaged. And because they do derive much of their thinking from hate radio and Fox News, they often hold incorrect beliefs about basic facts across a wide spectrum of important issues. They don’t bother to grasp even the rudiments of how an economy operates. They think plants will reopen just for them and jobs will magically flock back from China, even though they shop at stores like Walmart that stock virtually nothing but cheap, foreign-made goods. They believe—because Rush and Sean Hannity told them—that lots of jobs in the coal mines will soon re-emerge, even though that sector has been in steady decline for two generations. Don’t they know that?

Williams makes Trump voters look helpless, hapless, and victimized, unaccountable in any way for their predicament. Williams says that they are skeptical of the potential advantages of education, and if she’s right, she’s describing a culture suffering from vast disillusion. Or, she says, they live in “education deserts” where no institutions of higher education exist. I seriously doubt that. Junior colleges and other job-training options are relatively abundant. And at a 4.6 percent unemployment rate, you’re telling me there are no trucks to drive, no bricks to lay, no houses that need a coat of paint? Frankly, we may be the “elite,” but from the review Williams sounds downright condescending.

Although I’m tempted, I won’t claim that racism and sexism drive the political views of the working class Trump voter, nor will I posit some twisted desire to return to an idealized version of 1955, but I will confidently point a finger at this irrefutably pernicious aspect of their character: their willful combination of ignorance and arrogance. As Tom Nichols says in a recent interview in Salon: “It is one thing to say ‘I know Alex Jones is full of crap!’ But to know how full of crap he is you’re going to have to sit down and you’re going to have to read a newspaper. You’re going to have to make a decision about what you’re looking at. You’re going to have to turn the TV off for a minute and think about whether or not what you just heard makes sense to you as a human being, and people just won’t do it.” It’s not because they’re incapable of making more reasoned and informed decisions, it’s that they don’t want to.

But Williams’s assumption seems to be that we’re the ones who have to change, we’re the ones who must get a clue. The truth is that there’s much to be learned and understood from both sides. We must look each other in the eye and talk and listen. I see no interest in doing so from any of Trump’s most ardent supporters.

John Cooke ’71
Berwyn, Ill.

Research vs. Direct Care

I found it interesting but sad that your article on the genetics of schizophrenia (“Probing Psychoses,” July-August, page 40) provided such a good example of the “class cluelessness” discussed elsewhere in the issue (page 60). With no disrespect to the young man the author chose as an example of a person with schizophrenia, he is a best-case scenario in that he has good physical health, the ability to research and advocate for himself, a supportive family, and the option to live with that family in what appears to be stable middle-class housing. He in no way (other than diagnosis) resembles the clients in an inner-city partial-hospital program I worked with for some years. These clients often faced multiple challenges in addition to their psychiatric diagnosis. Among these were multiple medical conditions including tuberculosis and HIV infection, as well as the more common hypertension and diabetes—the latter two often related to the significant weight gain associated with the newer types of psychotropic medications. Other challenges were coexisting substance abuse, legal concerns, lack of social supports, and inadequate or even abusive housing in poorly run group homes.

There is absolutely no glamor or prestige in working with people with schizophrenia, but even with our incomplete current understanding, they can be tangibly helped. For a fraction of the nearly one billion dollars already allocated to the arcane genetic and cellular research described in the article, many people could be helped in a matter of weeks or months rather than the “decades” (if ever) before the research yields usable outcomes. It is already well known that social conditions have a very real impact on the overall functioning of people with schizophrenia.

The creation of an exemplary direct-care program could provide substantial benefits to clients, especially in this time of cutbacks in public funding. It saddens me that the Stanley Center has not included a direct-care component to its costly and prestigious research activities and that the author of the article doesn’t even consider such an option. Lack of advocacy for those unlike “us” is part of what “class cluelessness” is about.

Jill Becker, M.A.T. ’65
Licensed professional counselor
Lambertville, N.J.

Editor’s note:The article was not on schizophrenia care overall, but merely on this aspect of the research. If that research does prove fruitful over time—and obviously, the people pursuing it very much hope it will; Steven Hyman was director of the National Institute of Mental Health—that will alleviate a lot of suffering. Society should pursue both research and care, and an article focused on the former was not a commentary on the latter.

The Philosophy Chamber

I just encountered your article on “The Lost Museum” (by Jonathan Shaw, May-June, page 42). Fascinating story! I thought, perchance, you might be interested in an episode in 1817 pertaining to the Museum/Philosophy Chamber.

Sampson Reed [A.B. 1818], in his Biographical Sketch of Thomas Worcester, D. D., relates a story, or quotes an account by Worcester himself, which tells of a visit to that room:

Mr. Hill, of whom I have already spoken, is said to have had great hopes of Harvard University. Following the example of Swedenborg, he presented to the college library a set of the original edition in Latin of the Arcana Coelestia, and perhaps some few of the other works. Mr. Worcester had heard that these works were in the library and went to obtain them. His experience was so remarkable that I give it in his own words:

“Upon my return to college, after I had begun to read Swedenborg, I went to the library the second time to see if I could find any of his works. The librarian looked into the catalogue again, and found the alcove and shelves where they ought to have been; but they were not there. Then we began a thorough search. We looked through the whole library, in place and out of place, but could not find them. Then we began to think of other rooms. At that time the library was in the second story of the west end of Harvard Hall. In the east end was a large room, called the ‘Philosophical Room.’ And between this room and the library was a small room, which for the want of a proper name was called the ‘Museum.’ It was filled with rubbish, old curiosities, cast off, superseded, and obsolete philosophical apparatus, and so forth, all covered with dust. We could see no reason for hunting here, except that we had hunted everywhere else, without finding what we wanted.

“There was a long table in the room. Upon it, and under it, were piles of useless articles; and beyond it were shelves against the wall, where various things were stored away. On the under shelf, as far out of sight as possible, I saw some books. I told the librarian, and he went round and worked his way until he got at them, and found that the large books were volumes of the Arcana Coelestia. There were also several other works of Swedenborg, all of them covered with dust. I immediately got an order from President Kirkland, giving me authority to take the books and keep them in my room; and this I did for the rest of my college life.

“By what means or for what purpose these ‘Heavenly Doctrines’ were cast out of the library of Harvard College must be left to conjecture. Of the 50,000 or 60,000 volumes then belonging to the library, these were the only ones that were treated in this manner. The fact seems to represent the state of the New Church at that time” (pages 17f in the Google online scan of Reed’s book).

Stephen D. Cole
Assistant professor of religion and philosophy, Bryn Athyn College
Bryn Athyn, Pa. 

Final Clubs

I couldn’t help noticing that all of the letters published in the July-August issue in response to the “Social Club Saga” story on the Final Club/Unrecognized Social Organizations controversy were from men. Here’s a female perspective:

I believe in our constitutional liberties. I expect my alma mater to respect my constitutional rights and those of my classmates. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right of freedom of association, and Harvard students deserve it, too—even if they are from disfavored groups.

I value my constitutional liberties over petty resentments, class struggles, personal disappointments, group alliances, gender wars, college degrees, or other affiliations. Our constitutional liberties exist precisely to protect us from the sort of administrative overreach Harvard is currently engaged in. If freedom of assembly/association is broken at Harvard, what’s next?

Whatever Harvard thinks it might be gaining from this anti-constitutional action is worth far less than what it would be giving up. Unwise, Harvard.

Bonnie Jones Snyder ‘87
Lancaster, Pa.

As one of the oldest alumni, fifth oldest in the most recent Commencement Parade, to be exact, I’d like to comment on the newly proposed rule regarding final clubs and other unauthorized organizations to which Harvard students are to be prohibited from belonging.

As an undergraduate, I valued the freedom to belong to both the Avukah, the officially recognized Jewish Zionist organization, of which I was secretary, with a membership of 20 to 30, AND the Young Communist League, which was NOT recognized, but had an active membership of 8 to 10. Would it have been right for the administration to have forbidden membership in the latter on pain of suspension or expulsion? I don’t think so. And no matter how distasteful the attitudes of some final clubs and other groups are today, Harvard students are adults, and I don’t think the administration should have the right to choose for them which organizations they can and cannot be members of.

Nathaniel S. Lehrman ’42, M.D.
Port Washington, N.Y.

Harvard recently distributed a video with pictures reflecting accomplishments of President Drew Faust. In the first one, Faust is shown in the Yard speaking to four young men slouched in some of the green metal chairs which she had provided, with the president standing above them. In the second, she is speaking to young students in a school in China. Those students are standing with respect. The contrast is striking. And because some Harvard students took chairs into their dorms, the chairs are now chained at night!

A 2017 woman graduate who lived three years in the Radcliffe Quad expressed dismay at the elimination of sororities and clubs. Her sorority led to most of her closest friendships and by providing a safe place to rest and store her belongings between classes and activities made living in the Quad bearable.

Harvard should consider the rule of unintended consequences

Peter Malkin ’55, J.D. ’58
Greenwich, Conn.

Amazing that Harvard’s administration has so little regard for its students and faculty votes—let alone for democratic procedures—by banning clubs and genuflecting to the godly whims of “cultural appropriation.”

I trust that Harvard now will regulate the Loeb Theater productions to make certain that dramatic roles are only played by actors who match the gender, race, and religion of the characters as originally written.

And professors should only be allowed to teach novels or histories from their own ethnic background.

And please make certain that only the correct ethnic foods are served to students from identical ethnic backgrounds so they aren’t forced to ingest anything unsavory and contrary to their own upbringing.

Needless to say, any student belonging to an all-male, or all-female, club (glee club, boy or girl scouts, athletic club, etc.) in their birth country should be prohibited from remaining in such clubs.

Praise be to the “New Puritans” running our college.

John Ballard ’67
Fly Club member; Selma to Montgomery march foot soldier, 1965
Mill Valley, Calif.

The Watchers

Having nothing better to do, I picked up an old issue of Harvard Magazine, actually the January-February issue and opened it (at random) to “The Watchers” article (page 56), you know the one saying we were being watched by the private companies who periodically scan our personal computer.

I hadn’t read the article since the beginning of the year, and then I really didn’t read more than one or two of the opening paragraphs. So this time I got a few pages into the article. Then asked myself if I had ever had an experience along the lines suggested by the article. I recalled that I did. Many, many years ago I tried to call Baltimore from northern Virginia. About 75 miles away you understand. This was before the personal computer. The only electronic doodad we had in those days was the telephone.

Well, I waited and waited and waited some more. Finally I got an operator who said, “Your call to the Soviet Union is waiting.” At this point I was outraged and screamed into the phone that I was trying to call Baltimore. She kindly remedied the problem, and I was connected with my party.

I told my wife about my experience, and she remarked that it was a good thing that sort of thing didn’t happen today. I’d get visits from the FBI, CIA, and who knows who else. I laughed and said, “No, that wouldn’t happen.” The same incompetence that couldn’t tell the difference between Baltimore and Russia would send those visitors down the street to my neighbor. We both laughed so hard I never did finish the article.

 James T. Caprio ’59
Fort Worth

Blanche Ames

Laura J. Snyder wrote about the “intrepid botanical illustrator” Blanche Ames in your July-August issue (Vita, page 38). It is well worth it to drive 34.6 miles from Cambridge to North Easton to visit the Ames Mansion at Borderland State Park. The Friends of Borderland State Park offer a variety of activities including hiking trails, Naturalists’ Discovery walks, holiday music, the Blanche Ames National Juried Art Exhibition, and informative tours of the Ames Mansion.

In 1910 the construction of their mansion began, and the 22,212 square foot mansion was completed in 1912. The mansion at Borderland stayed in the family until Blanche Ames died in 1969, at the age of 91. When the Commonwealth acquired the 1250-acre estate in 1971, the Ames family donated most of the contents you can see inside the mansion.

Eileen Brodsky Spielman, Ed.M. ’70
Sharon, Mass.

Memes

One of the illustrations (ME ME TAS) accompanying the Undergraduate column (“Our Memes, Ourselves,” July-August, page 29) has irrevocably changed my view of memes, much as the motion picture S1m0ne obliterated (for me) the name “Simone.”

Terrance Jack Goldman, Ph.D. ’73
Los Alamos, N.M.

Commencement

Last week, I received the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Magazine intended for my daughter, a new Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I especially enjoyed reading John Harvard’s Journal for the Commencement 2017 and it brought back some wonderful memories of a rainy Thursday back in May. All of the sights, the people, and the sounds rushed back upon me of our time in the Tercentenary Theater, decked out with the various House banners, near the band and choir stand, just opposite the big-screen TV.

From our first meeting with a member of the Commencement Committee in their morning dress to the closing of the 366th Commencement by the Sheriff, the atmosphere was ebullient even with the cold rain as everyone watched the ceremony unfold. It was great to see that some wonderful traditions have continued at Harvard, namely the three orations, one in Latin and the other two in English, by the graduates. To hear the Latin language spoken is to be transported back in time to the very beginnings of the modern university. I was honored to meet and speak with Warren Little, a recipient of the 2017 Harvard Medal, along with countless other parents and friends of Harvard during the day. The strains of “Give Ear, Ye Children, to My Law,” performed by the Commencement Choir under the direction of Doctor Edward Jones, have not left my mind, my heart, my YouTube, and my iPhone. I was told that this particular hymn of Isaac Watts has been played at many Commencements, part of the heritage which I pray will continue.

As if this were not enough, we next moved over to the Sanders Theatre in Memorial Hall for the receiving of diplomas under the watchful gaze of James Otis and the spirits of those memorialized on the walls. Later the day reached a climax with the Hooding Ceremony over at the Harvard Medical School across the Charles. Thank you, Harvard, for everything you have done for my daughter and our family. Long Live Harvard!

Robert E. Gearing II
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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