LANE KENWORTHY '86 TOLD his friends freshman year that his trip to Russia with the United States Junior National soccer team was "fine."
Russia didn't think so.
What Kenworthy didn't tell his friends was that it was his two-goal performance that provided the United States with a stunning 2-1 upset victory against Russia in front of thousands of fans in Leningrad.
Nor did he tell the whole story when he said he was in Cambridge two summers ago during the Olympic soccer games that were played at Harvard stadium.
What he didn't say was that he opened the games by reciting the Olympic oath before almost 40,000 fans in Harvard Stadium.
But Lane Kenworthy doesn't talk much about a lot of things.
The soft-spoken Southerner is an outstanding soccer player, a rare two-year captain of the Harvard squad whose coach describes him as "a fascinating human being who has a rare level of poise and maturity."
But Lane won't tell you that.
Kenworthy has been honing his soccer skills since he was a seven-year-old in Atlanta. He has only been refining his political beliefs for the past four years, but his commitment to democratic socialism and his conviction that many of today's international problems emanate from American foreign policy are no less intense or deeply felt despite his briefer commitment to them.
As a 17-year-old member of the U.S. National Team, Kenworthy visited Guatemala. He went back to Central America last summer, not to fire centering passes or launch one of his blistering drives to the corner of the net, but to work on a collective farm and learn about Nicaragua's revolution.
"I don't think I'll miss soccer that much," he says now. "What I enjoy doing has shifted a lot. I'm much more involved in what I do politically and academically. In high school soccer was a big part of my life. I didn't do anything political. I've shifted more and more away from that since high school," he says.
But he's done a lot in soccer.
IN THE FOUR YEARS Kenworthy has played for Harvard, the Crimson has gone from being the doormat of the Ivy League to being one of its most dominant teams. In 1984, Harvard gained its first NCAA tournament berth in 10 years, reaching the quarterfinals against UCLA. The team finished second in the league last year.
"We've gone from the bottom almost to the top," says Coach Jape Shattuck, who took over the Harvard coaching job when Kenworthy was a freshman. "We've accomplished a lot in the time we've been together."
The lanky 6-ft., 3-in. center forward was voted captain in his junior year, an unusual honor that shows the kind of respect the other players had for him, Shattuck says.
"There's a dignity about him because he's so quiet and at ease with himself," says friend and teammate Martine Saballi '85. "He draws people to him because he is extremely charismatic, in a quiet way. After a day everybody had great respect for him as player. After a week of knowing him everybody had great respect for him as a person because he has such poise," Sabelli says. "That's why he was such a good captain."
Shattuck adds, "There's no replacing Lane from a lot of points of view, especially the level of maturity and poise he has both on and off the field. You need that throughout the whole process of building a team. The insights he provided about the program were very, very valuable, and I paid a lot of attention to what he said because he was like an experienced coach."
But because Kenworthy is quiet and refuses to sing his own praises, it is often hard for those who don't know him to figure him out.
Sabelli remembers the first time the two met. "I thought he was a cocky bastard who knew he was hot," Sabelli says.
Kenworthy then was a quiet freshmen with precocious soccer talent--he had just returned from training with the junior national team and was one of the country's top 19-and-under-players.
"We knew he'd be a good player, but he was orders of magnitude better than we expected. But he was very quiet, and we thought he didn't want to deal with anyone else," Sabelli recalls.
"It wasn't until I got to know him that I learned Lane just likes to be quiet to take things in, to survey what's happening and learn from his surroundings."
ONE THING KENWORTHY does admit readily is that he has learned from his surroundings and changed a great deal since coming to Harvard. Nowhere is his transformation more apparent than in his political awareness. He smiles upon recalling his freshman-year-involvement with the Republican Club. "I was an apolitical conservative, and I would've have voted for Ronald Reagan [had I been of voting age]."
That involvement was shortlived.
Kenworthy was influenced profoundly by twocourses he took sophomore year on the Soviet Unionthat were taught by Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professorof History Richard E. Pipes and Gurney Professorof History and Political Science Adam B. Ulam. "Iwas prepared to believe what they were saying, buttheir explantions didn't seem adequate," he says."I began leaning towards a much more skepticalview of their approach."
Throughout the year, Kenworthy's new, morecritical analysis expanded, as new friends and amore radical diet of reading led him to questionfurther America's international role. NoamChomsky's and Edward Herman's books were importantaspects of his transition.
"By the end of my sophomore year I was inlimbo, losing any of the faith I had had inconservatism and Ronald Reagan," Kenworthy says."I had thought that having a strong nationaldefense was a fine idea, but I shifted toward aliberal view because I weighed the human lossversus the increased efficiency and protection ofAmerican interests that are so much a part of theconservative ideology." During the latter part ofsophomore year, he came increasingly to view theGovernment Department as too conservative.
Kenworthy switched to the Sociology Departmentat the beginning of his junior year. "It waspartly because my political views were changingand partly because the courses were moreinteresting," he says.
"He is a very interesting student," saysBrennon Wood, Kenworthy's tutor and thesisadvisor. The thesis analyzed the radicalizationprocess in the 1960s of the Students for aDemocratic Society and the Socialist WorkersParty. "He's very quiet and it's hard to knowwhat's going on in his head, but he's a very goodstudent, very thorough and concerned about thematerial," Wood says.
WHILE KENWORTHY SPENT much of hissophomore year reading radical literature, he saysduring his junior year it "became really importantto me to be doing more than just theorizing. I hadto be out there doing."
He joined the Committee on Central America(COCA) and began helping to organize educationalsessions, such as slide shows, and demonstrationsprotesting U.S. involvement in Central America. Ata demonstration last spring protesting theAmerican embargo of Nicaragua, Kenworthy wasarrested, along with 550 others. "I was glad tosee there were so many committed people againstthe U.S. policy in Latin America," he saysmatter-of-factly.
And last summer, Kenworthy spent five weeks inNicaragua, learning Spanish and talking to anyonehe could find about the revolution. "Therevolution is overwhelmingly popular there," hesays. "I found only two people who thought thecountry was better under Somoza."
"The most exciting part of being there was theincredible level of political awareness among thepeople. Everyone is so excited and awarepolitically because they were involved in therevolution."
Kenworthy plans to go to the University ofWisconsin to get a PhD in Sociology, and he sayshe'd like to be a professor and raise thepolitical awareness of people in America. "I thinkwe can learn a lot from the people of Nicaragua,where health care and education are free. It willbe a long process, but being a professor, I canhave the most impact."