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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
It has been thirty-three years since the first Godkin Lecture was given by the British historian, Lord Bryce. In that span many able scholars and political figures have carried on the vigorous spirit of Edwin Lawrence Godkin. These lectures are a tribute both to the man whose name they bear and to the cause of uncorrupt democracy for which he fought.
Godkin, born in Ireland, came to America in 1856 with an Irishman's love for democracy and an Irishman's will to secure it. As editor of the "Nation" and the "Evening Post" he maintained a tireless attack upon Tammany and base politics in general. When President Eliot introduced Lord Bryce in 1903, he said, "These lectures upon government and civic duty are in remembrance of a man who gave his life to the public through the medium of the press . . . Mr. Godkin was a man of remarkable vigor and great candor, and unremitting devotion to lofty ideals of public duty" . . . Lord Bryce fittingly eulogized him thus: "Courage, unselfishness, public spirit-these are the virtues needed to benefit a community and these Mr. Godkin possessed. He hated corruption, ignorance and inefficiency in public affairs, and they raised his ire as an offence against himself would have done."
Next week Dr. Heinrich Bruening will continue the crusade that the Irish journalist began in 1865. The former German chancellor's history, his faith in a democratic government for Germany, and his detest of "emotional politics" that give rise to dictatorship, well fit him for his task. The Godkin spirit flourishes at the age of seventy-one.
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