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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
For the thousand Freshmen who greet the Yard for the first time on September 24th will begin an experience that is not just the start of another school year, but rather the commencement of a new phase of their lives. The new surroundings and environment, the new people with whom they will have to deal, and the altogether new responsibility for the ordering of their own affairs mark the end of school days and the beginning of the journey of adult life. And for all but a few the four years spent in Harvard will be an experience rich in itself, and also will lay the foundations for a more abundant life when the college years are ended.
At a time when higher education is being more widely spread among the masses of the population than ever before, the advantages that can be got from college training, especially from a private institution that is not beholden to any governmental body for its continuance, may not appear on the surface of things. But in coming to Harvard every Freshman is forging an unrivalled opportunity to equip himself for life in the modern world. This opportunity may be gained from contact with books in the University libraries, with the many professors and tutors with whom he will associate, and with the men of his own age with whom he will sport and learn and frolic.
But the advantage of college is two-fold: it blesses him that gives as well as him that takes. As the individual gains from the opportunities derived from his college training, he must be prepared to use these gains in useful services, both to the college and the community. It is frequently said that a man can get from college just as much as he is willing to put in. This is a true motto a far as it goes, but no college can be regarded as successful unless it produces graduates willing and able to support it for the benefit of future generations coming on. And it is significant that for over three hundred years Harvard has been perpetuated and improved by men to whom she gave their early training and their zest for intellectual endeavor.
Thus at the beginning of each college year Harvard turns to her incoming Freshmen, just as the Freshmen turn to her. For on their shoulders rests the future. But for the moment the prospect of four bright years ahead seems secure. And so engraved over one of the gates of the Yard is the inscription, "Enter to grow in wisdom."
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