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Uses of History


OUR college generation, the one which you are about to enter, has been accused by older warriors of not having an historical sense. Perhaps, in affairs of state, too much history is a bad thing for we live in a rapidly changing world, and all that. But in affairs of Harvard, there is much to be learned by looking back, by turning your confused tyro-minds to the tested words of a century of CRIMSON editorial writers. Here, carefully selected from the past 96 Septembers, is what they have told incoming freshmen:

It is to our youngest class that we turn to fill their place; and it may not be out of the way, in this connection, to say a few words regarding the duties we expect them to perform. It becomes more evident every year that success at the bat and oar is only to be obtained by persevering and enthusiastic labor. Let no petty or local dispute interfere where the honor of the University is at stake. The careless and cynic spirit should be frowned down; and everyone should seek to contribute, in the way most suited to his abilities, to the honor and eminence of Harvard. Let those who are blessed with a good biceps grasp the bat or the oar: let those who have not that too common holy reverence for a pen seek to relieve the prevailing dearth of contributions for the College papers. - nor does he do the least who leaves College with a general average of ninety-plus per cent,- but let us have no drones among us. In conclusion, we would call the attention both of the freshmen and the higher classes, to the fact that such conduct as would be expected from boys is not that which is hoped for from cultivated young men. -1874

In one's haste to avail himself of the opportunities for success at Harvard, several important items are apt to be overlooked. To the class of 1918 we say, therefore, that all roads to success here are barred if you fail to keep in good standing with the College Office. Acquire that and keep it and you are free to enjoy the responsibilities which appeal to you. -1915

For the apprehensive entering student this is the real Commencement. But it is not an auspicious beginning at all. At the least, the new Harvard man must wonder and worry about what his venture into highest education will bring him. After all, learning and frustration often cross. At the same time, he is terribly aware that his future depends on the unpredictable actions of Major General Hershey and Congressman Vinson of Georgia and, of course. Premier Joseph Stalin. No, this is not a beginning to crow about, hardly a start to the supposedly leisurely, satisfying process of learning.

All right, say it is a poor start. Say further, if you will, that the twentieth century has become a horror. Agreed that the "Age of Longing," the age of the Cold War and all that phrase connotes is hardly an age worth living in, let alone preparing for by the hard study and effort.

Then, we believe, you would be wrong. If the pessimists are correct at the moment, so is the broken clock right twice each day. Proving the clock broken is only a matter of time, and some patience. The dead watches, or the dead minds, cannot be allowed to rule merely because no one will stand up and argue.

As a matter of fact Harvard offers you less of a welcome than a challenge survey. It greets you with its great libraries and sharp-headed teachers first, offering you the knowledge of its snow-covered Yard and its view of the River in spring a little later. In a world of unknown, however, these few "givens" should be more than enough. 1951

Harvard is an omelette. Your best bet is to suspend judgment and let destiny wait awhile. Define after it's all over. There will be time enough to tell them about Harvard in the club cars, country clubs, cocktail parties, and barbecues of the next half century. -1964

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