"Uncle Jack never made a neutral impression in his life--always positive, always negative," remembered journalist Susan Reed, speaking about her great-uncle, John Reed '10. And last night an audience of more than 50 fellows on whom Reed--journalist, poet, and socialist revolutionary--made a strong impression traveled to Adams House to celebrate his 100th birthday.
The symposium, organized by the philosopher and editor Corliss Lamont '24, paid tribute to the former Adams House resident who chronicled the Russian Revolution in "10 Days That Shook the World."
"Fighter for humanity, social justice, economic equality and world peace, Reed is an American hero," Lamont said to rousing applause. "These celebrations are non-partisan. We are not trying to raise up an economic system, but we are here to admire Reed's honesty."
Like his grand-neice said, however, it was not so easy to divorce Reed from his potent politics. The only American buried at the Kremlin, Reed is still the stuff of ideological controversy.
Before last night's conference, Marxist activists were questioned by the Harvard police for soliciting donations on University property. Although the activists eventually were allowed by conference organizers to set up a stall for their newspapers--just a few feet from the portrait of Reed in the House dining hall--the irony of the moment was not lost.
"It's a fitting tribute of Harvard's memory of John Reed that they harassed us," said Jim Henle '73, one of the activists.