For President Bok, last Saturday's dedication of the Kennedy School of Government's new building on Boylston St. was the best of times and the worst of times.
The weather was perfect. An Indian summer sun shone on the more than 5000 people who gathered to catch a glimpse of the political luminaries who showed up in droves, and, while they were at it, to watch the official launching of what Bok hopes will be a major professional school for public servants.
As expected, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 gave a moving speech of dedication, commemorating President John F. Kennedy '40, for whom the school is named, and linking the goals of the school to the ideals of his late brother. Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and members of the Kennedy family looked on from the podium.
But a crowd of 400 protesters chanted throughout Bok's speech on "Excellence in Government." Following the end of the official ceremony, Mark Smith '72-4 gave another moving speech, protesting the naming of the school's library for the late Charles W. Engelhard, an industrialist who made his fortune on South African gold mining interests.
Some newspapers wrote glowingly about the protest and Smith's speech, calling them symbols of the school's role as a forum for debate. It was, however, a debate that the Kennedy School's administration had tried to prevent up until the last moment.
At the beginning of the dedication, Graham T. Allison Jr. '62, dean of the Kennedy School, said a protester would be allowed to speak if the demonstrators "respected the dedication." Before the ceremony, Allison claimed the students had agreed to be "non-disruptive" in return for the right to have one of their representatives address the audience.
The students claimed that no such agreement had been made and Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, confirmed their claim.
Smith would probably not have been allowed to speak if Kennedy had not prefaced his prepared remarks by saying that he and his family were going to remain to hear the protesters' spokesman, and adding that he hoped the audience would also remain. For all practical purposes, Smith's speech became part of the official ceremony.
"President Kennedy understood the need for greater talent and ability in public service and that is why this living memorial is so appropriate," Kennedy said in a speech which brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. His voice cracking with emotion, Kennedy concluded, "Now at last Jack has come back to Harvard. The dream still lives. The flame may flicker but it will never die."
Kennedy's speech elicited a standing ovation, but the talk of the luncheon that followed the ceremony seemed to the Smith's address. He called the naming of the school's library for Engelhard "a travesty and a damn shame," and claimed the late businessman is a symbol of U.S. support of the apartheid regime.
Smith's speech and the protest are already having results. K-School students met today to discuss the Engelhard issue. And the library plaque bearing the multimillionaire's name has not been put up yet.