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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Sir: You are, as usual, partly right. I, who am well past thirty, can't remember a sentence of A. Lawrence Lowell's baccalaureate sermon of June, 1921. But I can recall a good deal of the sermon at chapel on class day morning. Some notable divine was supposed to give it, but he had a call elsewhere or something, and the saintly George Herbert Palmer, already professor emeritus for several years, pinch hit for him. Most of us knew him only as the author of some required freshman reading. "Self-Cultivation in English," and we were faintly disappointed.
But not for long. The venerable philosopher gave the most satisfying talk that I had heard in a youthtime of being talked at. He said that he imagined that commencement was probably not the occasion for rejoicing for many seniors that it was supposed to be. Many of us had probably failed to live up to the expectations of our parents and the hopes of ourselves; we had misused or ignored chances for learning that would not occur again; we had, perhaps, fumbled badly in athletics or fizzled dismally as social lights.
But, he said, college is only practice. "I'd try to forget about it, if I were you," I think he said, "and look ahead toward the years that really count." I can't remember much more, but I think that when we came out of Appleton Chapel the sun was shining.
J. W. Jr. in The New York Herald-Tribune.
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