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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
It can be regarded us nothing short of unfortunate that the official Harvard snub to the University of Goettingen should have come during the twenty-four hours when the whole civilized world German nation. No matter what one's political ideology may be, the Hindenburg has shown that many of the things which we regard as important and vital in life can flame up and turn to dust and ashes in a moment before a touch of the hand of the Unknown.
In one sense the Unknown is not Fate or a Divine Providence or the hand of God. It is the mind of man, struggling against odds sometimes insuperable to find out about the world in which we live and move and have our beings. The Hindenburg was just such a struggle; it was once a mere figment of the imagination of men, men of prophetic soul, dreaming on things to come. Its flight was just as much of a victory as any adventure that enlarges the horizons of men and its fall more clamitous than any academic disaster, since it proved the final round-up of many whose vision made it go.
For Harvard to take such a moment to administer its "formal greeting", a smile on its lips, and to refuse a delegate, a dagger in its heart, is not only untimely; it is downright discourteous. If "the freedom and fraternity of the scholarly world" holds "the surest hope" for "our civilization", why not deal directly and put away childish "greetings"? One has a feeling that a German University would never be afraid to tell Harvard, if it did not want to come to one of our celebrations, the reasons for not wanting to come. The German spirit, the spirit of the airmen who met their doom at Lakehurst, would never have scrupled to make plain their feelings.
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