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Speaking before a gathering in Memorial Chapel yesterday morning, President Conant pledged the University to turning out talented men determined to devote themselves to the preservation of their freedom.
In reviewing the events of the past year that have brought the clouds of war even closer than 12 months ago, he stated that "the new national objective will soon change in many ways our mode of life," and that we must be ready to oppose the totalitarian influence from abroad and make democracy work in times of crisis. "We can only do so if each individual is willing through self-imposed discipline to make sacrifices for the ideals he worships."
He said that we are helping the British Empire defend the ideal of a free society which is built on a profound faith in the significance of the individual, the basis of our University tradition. "It is, therefore, for a two-fold reason a primary duty of a university to cherish this faith and strengthen it by words and deeds."
"Our belief in the supreme significance of the individual may be sorely tried before those who are entering as Freshmen graduate from this College," he continued. "At best, a time of emergency is not a time for the flowering of individuality, for tensions are high and conformity rather than diversity is at a premium." He pointed out, however, we must guard against the danger of totalitarian methods sweeping aside our democratic institutions in time of crisis.
Urges War Declaration
Stating that although he favored an immediate declaration of war as opposed to the present half-way measures where we let others do our fighting for us, still he respects the right of the isolationists to express their views. "The very fact that a vigorous debate continues is a proof that individual liberty is still secure. Only when no voice of dissent is heard must we fear that a group of free men has been transformed into a regiment of slaves."
In conclusion he remarked, "It is the duty of an academic group to tolerate extreme diversity and protect the rights of individual opinion. Yet a college must cherish the development of that type of individual whose strength lies both in independence and critical self-appraisal. It must foster the growth of that attitude which seeks neither security nor leisure but, disregarding hard-ships, welcomes each new challenge. In playing our part we at Harvard carry out our historic mission."
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