Today the University done its academic regalia and its military garb in honor of Marshal Joffre of France. Harvard has been led by remarkable men, it has nurtured remarkable men, it has entertained remarkable men. But never before has it had to do with a man who did a more remarkable thing than drive back the German battering-ram of armies.
Yet, as the Marshal has himself said, America in welcoming him is not welcoming an individual, but a nation. We pay all honor to Joffre because in him we see France, that splendid nation which, for the existence of her life and her republican ideals, has fought a great fight against the terrible power of Germany. Joffre is the representative of that people which our people honors with all dignity, as one strong man honors another.
There will be many things to interest this veteran of world-changing battles. In all truth it may be that which we might suppose would interest him the most will not stir him. He has seen so very much of war, so very much of soldiers, courageous, hardy, strong, that the sight of one more regiment, however gallant and well-trained it may be, could well cause small influence on him. What thought can he have of a thousand men? He has been in command of millions.
But we say to you, Joffre, Marechal de France, that those thousand men, upreared in the spirit of liberty and proud in their strength, are worth more than a regiment of infantry. They would have stood well in the forefront of battle beside your bravest at the Marne.
And they may stand beside your bravest in a few months time, at the Marne or the Somme, or pushing past the Rhine and the Elbe into the heart of Germany.