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Sealing up a packet of documents for Harvard's quadricentennial celebration, President Conant yesterday morning turned the eyes of the university away from the past and towards the coming years. What the future holds for Harvard, or indeed for the world, no one can accurately tell. But if the "university tradition" of the past gives indication of a healthy future, certainly Harvard starts her fourth century with a firm stride.
Today as never before Harvard stands in a position to keep the balance amongst President Conant's "four essential ingredients" that make up an American university: "the advancement of learning, the liberal arts college, professional training, and a healthy student life." The balance varies from time to time; at the moment there is danger that pure learning may outstrip the liberal arts because of Mr. Conant's emphasis on research work. But as learning makes the life blood of the arts, so the arts stimulate men's minds for things intellectual and start them on a feast of which college is no more than the hors d'oeuvres. Then, professional training remains for post-graduate work, with the college viewpoint left unclouded by "the dull glasses of immediate utility." The houses and tutorial system make healthy student life an everyday reality.
With such a set-up, small wonder that Harvard lays claim to being one of the cultural centers of the nation. As a reservoir of abstract learning, with libraries, laboratories and learned men, she holds a definite trust, both in perpetuating past scholarship and in stimulating the arts and sciences for present day benefits to humanity. A glance at Harvard's contributions to industrial life, for instance, bears striking witness to the value of scientific investigation to the national economy. And most important of all are the men, schooled in the healthy student life or trained professionally in graduate work, whom the University sends out into the world. In all fields and callings, in all parts of the globe, men bear the brand of the American educational tradition, and, though we have no ruling class like England, people of this stamp make up the intellectual backbone of the nation.
In rededicating the University to the service of the country, both in advancing the cause of learning and in preparing men to meet the responsibilities that lie ahead, President Conant has set up two ideals of vital importance; freedom and truth. "Absolute freedom of discussion, absolutely unmolested inquiry" are essential to the continuation of the American cultural tradition: they have disappeared (or have never appeared at all) in many lands. The search for truth is a thorny way too, implying an intellectual integrity, a willingness to face facts, and complete freedom from prejudice and passion. It is a high ideal for the future, but much the same as the spirit and purpose that motivated the Puritan forefathers when they chose for their cloud by day and their pillar of fire by night the word "veritas."
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