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When J. Robert Oppenheimer '25 speaks in Cambridge this April, the students who attend his lectures will not be expecting to hear a justification of his actions as a public servant. The William James lectures will not be used as a means to clear the name of a man who made undeniable errors of judgement. Their purpose, and the purpose of the man who will deliver them, will be to benefit the students of Harvard by allowing them to hear the thoughts of one of the greatest minds of the century.
Oppenheimer's acknowledged brilliance makes him worthy of the platform. To judge him by any other standard is to violate the spirit of intellectual freedom. The Harvard Corporation has had the courage to evaluate Oppenheimer on the basis of his intellect, not of his politics.
Others, however, have not been able to view the matter equally dispassionately. Raymond Moley, writing in Newsweek, has implied that Harvard should not have given this honor to a man whose discretion has been challenged. Mr. Moley, citing Adlai Stevenson, Chester Bowles, and Hugh Gaitskell, the last three Godkin lecturers, further implies that Harvard "is more concerned with repairing damaged careers than in the more prosaic task of pursuing and disseminating the truth." In judging the University's selection of its guest lecturers, Newsweek's analyst has suggested that "Harvard is haunted by the faint smell of witches burned centuries ago and is obsessed by the belief that the public is always wrong."
Mr. Moley apparently forgets that Harvard is an institution for higher education, not an academic subordinate of the ADA. If Mr. Moley's standards were to be followed, material success and public acclaim would be the only criteria to be utilized in choosing lecturers, and students would be safely inculcated with whatever viewpoint the contemporary majority holds.
Such is not the method, nor, we hope, the aim of any school. Education should stimulate thought, not restrict it. The great value of a university such as Harvard is that it presents many points of view, without attempting to force any single one on its students. By giving its students the opportunity to hear Oppenheimer, the University is only fulfilling its purpose in encouraging mental action and reaction.
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